Nearly one in five epileptic patients exhibit the symptoms of attention deficient hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), say researchers at Neurological Surgery, P.C. This rate is four times higher than the rate of ADHD in the general population (approximately 4.4 percent).
ADHD occurs in eight to 10 percent of children and adolescents. An ADHD diagnosis is made when children have six or more hyperactivity-impulsivity symptoms, and/or six or more inattention symptoms. Some ADHD symptoms continue into adulthood in up to 66 percent of cases.
“Little was previously known about the prevalence of ADHD symptoms in adults with epilepsy, and the results were quite striking,” said Alan B. Ettinger, M.D., M.B.A., Director of the Epilepsy Center at Neurological Surgery, P.C. (NSPC) and Professor of Clinical Neurology. “To my knowledge, this is the first time ADHD symptoms in adults with epilepsy have been described in the scientific literature. Yet, the presence of these symptoms may have severe implications for patients’ quality of life, mood, anxiety, and functioning in both their social and work lives.”
The adult participants had self-reported themselves as having epilepsy as a part of the Epilepsy Comorbidities and Health (EPIC) study and had received a survey from the researchers. The survey included the Physicians Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9), Adult ADHD Self-Report Scale (ASRS-6), and Generalized Anxiety Disorder Assessment (GAD-7).
The survey also investigated other factors that had an impact on the patients’ physical and mental health such as the number of antiepileptic drugs and the frequency of seizures over the last three months. Other measurements looked at quality of life outcomes. Researchers used statistical analyses to determine that association between ADHD symptoms and quality of life incomes.
Researchers analyzed a national sample of 1,361 adult epilepsy participants who experienced the symptoms of ADHD. They also had higher rates of depression (nine types more likely) and anxiety (eight times more likely), as well as more seizure frequency.
“This study reinforces the fact that we have to broaden our view of what epilepsy entails,” he said. “Our patients may also have psychiatric comorbidities, and screening for and treating these may make a great difference to patients in their family, school and work lives.”
“Physicians who treat epilepsy often attribute depression, anxiety, reduced quality of life and psychosocial outcomes to the effects of seizures, antiepileptic therapies and underlying central nervous system conditions. Our findings suggest that ADHD may also be playing a significant role,” said Dr. Ettinger.
“However, we don’t know yet if ADHD in epilepsy is synonymous with ADHD in the general population, which is often responsive to treatment. As a next step, we need to validate measures to screen for ADHD specifically in epilepsy and clarify the nature of ADHD symptoms in adults with epilepsy. This will lay the foundation for future trials of treatments that offer the promise of rendering major improvements in the quality of life of adult epilepsy patients.”