A doctor has described the common condition of mouth disease in young children as “a disease of the mind”.
Dr Peter Stacey, from the University of Reading, told the BBC News website that this condition was caused by the disruption of a normal cognitive process.
“When you have the disorder it’s very hard to think clearly,” he said.
Dr Stacey said the condition was often mistaken for autism and referred to as the “chronic mental disorder of mouth”. “
I would say it’s like having a disorder of the brain, which is quite serious, it can lead to problems with learning, it is associated with mood disorders, so you need to have a specialist.”
Dr Stacey said the condition was often mistaken for autism and referred to as the “chronic mental disorder of mouth”.
He said the disorder was associated with poor health, poor social skills and poor school performance.
“It is a chronic mental disorder, but it’s not a disease of any one individual,” he told the programme.
“This is a disease that is a part of the body, it affects all of us.”
A study published in March found the average life expectancy of people with mouth disease was just 11.6 years, compared with the average of 33.1 years for those without the condition.
There is currently no cure for mouth disease and a new generation of treatments are being developed.
A study released in June suggested that the number of people in the UK with the condition has doubled in just four years, with more than 50,000 cases.
Dr Stachey said the “unresolved” issue of autism could also contribute to the rise in cases.
“If you think about autism it’s a very difficult thing to explain, so I think that could be the key to understanding,” he added.
“But autism is a very different condition from depression and it’s an emotional condition.”
Dr Peter’s latest research was funded by the Medical Research Council and the National Health Service.
He said it was important to recognise that there was still much work to be done.
“We are not really at the stage where we can start treating autism with treatments, it’s more about developing a more complex understanding of the disorder and its causes,” he explained.
“That’s why we need to look at other causes, like alcohol or tobacco, which are associated with the same symptoms and the same brain damage.”