What is Chelation Therapy?
Chelation is a process of eliminating specific heavy metals from the blood. Heavy metals like lead, mercury and cadmium have been found in high levels in some children with autism. Hence, chelation is being used as a treatment for autism associated with metal toxicity. It is hypothesized that chelation therapy may help to improve the symptoms by removing the toxic metals.
How is Chelation done?
Chelation therapy makes use of various chemical agents such as Dimercaptosuccinic acid (DMSA), Ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (EDTA), 2-3- dimercaptopropane-1- sulfonate (DMPS), etc which bind to the heavy metals and remove them from the body via urine. These chemical agents are given intravenously or by mouth or in the skin. Urine levels of heavy metals excreted are then measured
What are the benefits?
Few cases have shown improvement in eye contact, attention, language, cognition and social interaction. However, there is not enough scientific evidence supporting these improvements in autism.
Are there any side effects?
Some children may have serious side effects like liver and kidney damage, fatigue, diarrhoea, abnormal blood count, mineral abnormalities, seizures, sulphur like smell, regression, stomach upset and rash. Therefore, it is still an unproven mode of treatment for autism and needs extensive research.
Chelation therapy should be administered only by a specialized doctor who has expertise and experience in this treatment. Blood tests are required before chelation to identify the toxic levels of heavy metals. Due to possibility of side effects, regular monitoring of liver functions, kidney functions etc. is required. Parents should be cautious and weigh the risk & benefits of this treatment for their children.