Epilepsy May Be Linked to Higher Risk of ADHD

There may be a connection between fever-induced seizures, epilepsy, and a later diagnosis of ADHD, researchers find.
ADHD News Feed | posted by Devon Frye

July 25, 2016

Children who suffer from epilepsy or febrile seizures — meaning seizures triggered by high fevers in infants and toddlers — may have nearly triple the risk of developing ADHD later in life, a new study finds.

The study, published online July 13 in the journal Pediatrics, tracked more than 900,000 children born in Denmark between 1990 and 2007, following them until 2012. Of these children, 21,079 were eventually diagnosed with ADHD; children with epilepsy were 2.72 times more likely to receive an ADHD diagnosis, while children who suffered from febrile seizures in infancy or toddlerhood were 1.28 times more likely. Children with both epilepsy and febrile seizures were found to be an astonishing 3.22 times more likely to be diagnosed with attention deficit later in life — even after researchers controlled for potentially confounding factors like low birth weight or a family history of epilepsy.

The results sync up with past studies that have found a possible link between epilepsy and ADHD in adults, but researchers believe the study may be the first to investigate a potential connection between ADHD and febrile seizures. The data is not enough to prove causation, at this early stage, but researchers speculate that the apparent connection may be linked to genetic risk factors that overlap for all three conditions.

"[Epilepsy, ADHD, and febrile seizures] all have their root within the central nervous system," said Dr. Josiane LaJoie, a pediatric neurologist at NYU Langone Comprehensive Medical Center, who was not involved in the study. Ultimately, she said, “The link between these conditions is not surprising.”

At this point, the study’s authors are advocating for closer monitoring of patients diagnosed with epilepsy or febrile seizures, to ensure that any potential ADHD symptoms are caught and treated as early as possible.

"It is vital that when caring for a child with epilepsy, some of the medical visit involves attention to academic achievement and psychosocial functioning,” LaJoie concluded.

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