Behaviour, Infant and Children | August 1, 2014 | Author: The Super Pharmacist
Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is the most frequently diagnosed psychiatric disorder in children, although it can also begin in adulthood. The hallmark symptoms of ADHD are hyperactivity, impaired response inhibition and an inability to sustain attention (as the name suggests). A patient may exhibit some or all of these symptoms. Estimates suggest that approximately 10% of children from seven to twelve years of age suffer from ADHD, and to 60% of these may experience symptoms as they grow up.
ADHD is strongly associated with the male gender. This condition is acknowledged as a neuropsychiatric disorder, as certain changes in brain structure and chemistry are consistently shown to be associated with ADHD symptoms.
These may include:
There is a possibility that certain foods, or rather the lack of certain nutrients, may affect ADHD development. Some researchers in this field have concluded that dietary changes can affect the severity of symptoms.
As mentioned above, artificial colourings may influence development of the condition for certain patients. Some other foods, including chocolate, tomatoes, soy and citrus fruits, are also associated with ADHD symptoms in children. There may also be a link between sugar intake and ADHD, but this is mainly based on parent reports. Deficiency in the amino acid tryptophan may be associated with attention deficit in adults. This may be related to the fact that this molecule is converted to some neurotransmitters, including serotonin, when ingested.
Some studies indicate a protective effect of omega-3 fatty acids against ADHD symptoms. A study of 95 children with ADHD also demonstrated a correlation between omega-3 intake and improvements in working memory.
Conventional treatment for ADHD is mainly based on drug therapy. Methylphenidate (i.e. Ritalin® or Concerta®) is a typical pharmacological ADHD treatment. Others include dexamphetamine and combinations of amphetamine and dexamphetamine. These options act by increasing the availability of dopamine. These drugs are associated with side-effects (and high abuse potential, though not necessarily in ADHD patients themselves), and many parents may not wish to expose their child to "stimulant drugs".
Exercise may ameliorate ADHD symptoms in both adults and children. A study including young ADHD patients demonstrated a decrease in inattention as a result of 20 minutes of moderate exercise. Practising yoga may be associated with improved ADHD symptoms. Exercise also appears to enhance the efficacy of methylphenidate, which may be useful for patients in need of combination therapy.
This is a technique that helps patients to control their symptoms through familiarity with visual representations of their physiological effects. For example, ADHD patients may observe the brain activity associated with their symptoms via electroencephalogram (EEG). They are then trained to employ "self-regulation" techniques in response to this, which may result in the easing of symptoms such as inattention.
This is a type of training, based on task completion, designed to improve working memory and attention. This promising alternative therapy appears to be particularly effective in children and teenagers with ADHD. Cognitive training has an advantage of possible delivery through portable technological interfaces - i.e. smartphones and tablet PCs.
This is a system of training and/or educating the parents of children with ADHD in appropriately and effectively managing the patient's behavioural symptoms. This may be provided in the form of parent support structures, parenting skill improvements, targeting child behaviour or a combination of these. This training appears to have positive outcomes, and may also have psychological benefits for the parents in question, but scientific review of this option can produce inconclusive results.
ADHD is associated with circadian rhythm (i.e. the sleep/wake cycle) disturbances. Parts of the brain that regulate sleep patterns have been found to function differently in ADHD patients in comparison with healthy controls. These are controlled to a degree by a molecule called melatonin, which acts as a neurotransmitter and a hormone. A recent trial demonstrated that the altered melatonin release associated with ADHD resulted in a significant sleep deficit in the patients studied. Melatonin supplementation may correct sleep disturbances in ADHD, which may improve attention and performance deficits.
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