Lakeshore Pediatric Center
635 N Hwy 16
Denver, NC 28037
What is attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)?
Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is the most common mental health problem in children. Children with ADHD often have problems with attention span, hyperactivity, and impulsive behavior. It is often called by an older name, attention deficit disorder (ADD).
The disorder begins in the preschool years and may either continue or fade away during the teenage years. About one-third of children with ADHD also have learning problems such as a reading disability. About half of ADHD children and teenagers have behavior problems, which may include breaking rules, talking back, and hitting other children.
ADHD is 7 times more common in boys than girls. Girls are more likely to have troubles with attention and less likely to have hyperactivity.
How does it occur?
In about 70% of cases, ADHD is inherited. It runs in families, especially through the males in the family line. Research continues in an effort to find out why it occurs in those without a family history. Some things that contribute to the risk for ADHD include:
Much research has looked at whether ADHD is caused by sugar or things added to foods such as preservatives and coloring. No sound evidence has connected these with ADHD. Allergies are also not a factor in causing ADHD.
People with ADHD have several small differences in their brain structure. These differences are in the front part of the brain (an area involved in self-control) and in some parts in the center of the brain.
What are the symptoms?
The symptoms of ADHD, especially hyperactivity, usually appear by age 2 or 3 and by first grade at the latest. The main symptoms are:
Common related symptoms are:
How is it diagnosed?
Your health care provider will ask about the symptoms and will observe your child's behavior for signs of ADHD. To diagnose ADHD, it must be clear that the symptoms persist and interfere in a major way with daily life. You and others, such as your child's teachers, may be asked to complete questionnaires or rating forms about ADHD symptoms. Your child may be asked to see a psychologist or other mental health professional for tests of attention and self-control.
There are no useful physical tests such as blood tests or brain scans for diagnosing ADHD.
There are 3 forms of ADHD:
How is it treated?
The treatment of ADHD may involve 3 types of treatment:
Treatments that have not been found effective include diets limiting sugar, food additives, or food colorings; and herbal supplements and health foods. Despite much research into this area since the 1970s, little has been found that relates diet to hyperactivity, impulsive behavior, or poor attention.
Although there are claims that many health foods benefit children with ADHD, there are almost no data to back up or refute those claims. Omega fatty acid supplements and certain vitamins and minerals may help symptoms of ADHD.
How long do the effects last?
The symptoms of ADHD almost always last from early childhood until puberty. Between puberty and the young adult years, about half of ADHD sufferers have a major reduction in symptoms. The other half show a slight change or no change in symptoms as they grow into adulthood. Being more patient and better able to sit still are the most common improvements between late childhood and young adulthood.
For more information, contact:
Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD)
Written by Gayle Zieman, PhD, for McKesson Health Solutions LLC.
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.