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Today in Health & Wellness
HEALTH CONDITIONS
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
Overview
Symptoms
Risk Factors
Commonly Prescribed Drugs
Treatment and Management
Doctors to Consult
Overview

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, more commonly known as ADHD primarily manifests with poor or short attention span, a consistent intensity of hyperactivity, and impulsiveness inappropriate for the person’s age. This limits the ability of the patient for a normal social interaction and learning. Symptoms develop during early childhood and continue to adulthood. The exact cause of ADHD is still unknown but it has a strong genetic component. Some studies relate ADHD to imbalances in the levels of neurotransmitters or structural abnormalities of the brain wherein there is less nervous tissue in specific regions.

Types of ADHD:

  • Predominantly inattentive. Most of the symptoms are under inattention. This is formerly known as attention deficit disorder or ADD.
  • Predominantly hyperactive-impulsive. Symptoms are primarily hyperactivity and impulsivity.
  • Combined. The symptoms are a combination of inattention and hyperactivity and impulsivity.

Patients with ADHD usually have learning disabilities such as troubles in understanding problems and communicating. Psychological disorders such as anxiety and depression are common. ADHD patients often have antisocial behavior and increased tendency in harming others.

Diagnosis of ADHD includes a medical exam to eliminate other conditions, medical history, and the use of diagnostic questionnaires and criteria specific for ADHD. Identifying the type of ADHD is made if the patient presents with at least 6 of the major symptoms of inattention or hyperactivity-impulsivity. The symptoms should affect and interfere with everyday life for at least 6 months. The child should manifest these symptoms at home, school, and other settings.

 
Symptoms

Inattention

  • Lack of close attention to details and easily distracted
  • Quickly gets bored
  • Inability to focus on one task
  • Difficulty organizing tasks and activities and learning new information
  • Easily lose items needed for activities such as pencil, pen, and paper
  • Does not listen even when spoken to directly
  • Moves slowly and appears to be daydreaming
  • Processes information slowly and less accurately
  • Difficulty following instructions and finishing tasks

Hyperactivity & impulsivity

  • Fidgets or taps hands or feet; squirms in the seat
  • Inability to stand or sit still
  • Excessive talking
  • Runs or climbs and touches objects even during inappropriate situations
  • Difficulty doing an activity quietly
  • In constant motion
  • Does not have the patience to wait
  • Acts without much thought about the consequences
  • Suddenly blurts out answers or inappropriate comments

Symptoms in Adults

  • Chronic lateness and forgetfulness
  • Anxiety
  • Low self-esteem
  • Difficulties in anger management
  • Impulsiveness
  • Unorganized
  • Procrastination
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Depression
  • Relationship problems
Risk Factors
  • Sex. ADHD is more common in boys
  • Family history. ADHD is strongly linked to a genetic component
  • Environmental toxins. Exposure to common toxins like lead
  • Use of harmful substances during pregnancy. Illicit drug use, alcohol consumption, and smoking
  • Developmental problems. Problems during key development stages of the central nervous system
Commonly Prescribed Drugs
  • Stimulant drugs are the most commonly prescribed drugs to manage ADHD symptoms. These drugs affect the levels of brain neurotransmitters which improve symptoms of inattention and hyperactivity-impulsivity. These drugs are available in short-, intermediate-, and long-acting forms. Examples of stimulants include amphetamines like dextroamphetamine and lisdexamfetamine, and methylphenidates like methylphenidate and dexmethylphenidate. Side effects: weight & appetite loss, sleep problems, irritability, tics
  • Antidepressants are more commonly prescribed to patients with ADHD and a mood disorder like depression. These are not as effective as stimulant and non-stimulant drugs in improving ADHD symptoms. Antidepressants given for ADHD include bupropion, desipramine, imipramine, and nortriptyline. Side effects: sleep problems, increased risk of suicide for young adults
  • Non-stimulant drugs are prescribed for patients older than 6 years old who do not respond to stimulant drugs. An example of a non-stimulant is atomoxetine which increases noradrenaline. This improves focus and attention and decreases fidgeting of an ADHD patient. Guanfacine is prescribed to lessen inattention and hyperactivity-impulsivity symptoms. Clonidine is believed to affect brain receptors and reduce symptoms of hyperactivity and impulsivity. Side effects: fatigue, dizziness, dry mouth, constipation
Treatment and Management
  • ADHD is managed with medications, therapy, training, and counseling. The available treatments manage the symptoms but do not cure ADHD. Approaches differ for each ADHD patient.
  • Behavior therapy helps the primary caregivers and teachers of ADHD patients in implementing behavior-changing strategies such as the use of timeouts and reward systems.
  • Psychotherapies are beneficial for older ADHD patients. This type of therapy allows them to discuss issues and concerns that affect them, determine negative behavioral patterns, and collaborate on ways to manage the symptoms.
  • Patients with ADHD can undergo a social skills training to improve their interaction and communication with other people.
  • Use simple words and demonstrations when giving explanations and instructions to an ADHD patient. Give one direction at a time in a slow and quiet manner of speaking.
  • Be patient with an ADHD child. Determine their strengths and interests, and help build their self-esteem.
  • Be familiar with warning signs that signal hyperactivity or irritability of an ADHD patient. Try to manage the situation early on to avoid drastic changes in their mood and behavior.
  • Maintain a healthy and balanced diet. Try to keep a food diary to record which food causes the child to manifest the symptoms strongly.
  • Plan daily activities and try to keep things and activities as organized as possible for an ADHD patient. Establish a daily routine that the child can follow.
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