A new study from Denmark, recently published in the journal Pediatrics, suggests that there is a connection between epilepsy and ADHD. It found children who suffer from epilepsy or have had a fever-related seizure may have a significantly increased risk of developing ADHD (attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder). While research (both anecdotal and clinical) into this connection has been conducted in the past, this current study has a much broader scope and is considered to have greater validity, as the participants numbered over a million and follow-up covered more than 20 years.
The ADHD and Epilepsy Connection
ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder with symptoms that include, among others, impulsive behaviors, an inability to focus on tasks at hand, and ill-timed periods of inattention. Epilepsy is a disorder of the brain and central nervous system whose most notable symptom is seizures. Fever-related seizures can occur when body temperatures reach or exceed 102°F.
The results of the research, initiated in 1990 and continuing until 2012, revealed that those with epilepsy in childhood and those who had fever-related seizures were almost three times more likely to develop symptoms of ADHD than those who were not afflicted with either condition. In addition, those who had both conditions had more than three times the risk of developing ADHD.
However, a caveat exists regarding the study, as the findings only point to an association among conditions rather than a causal relationship. There are two reasons for this: first, it is not yet known why the conditions are linked and, second, the study did not take into account any medications administered to treat epilepsy, which may influence ADHD development. Other conditions that are risk factors shared among the conditions, such as low birth weight and family history, were considered, and these appear to support the research. Therefore, it cannot be ultimately concluded that there is a direct link between epilepsy and ADHD.
Early intervention for ADHD is important so that treatment can begin before problems arise. Early detection of ADHD after epilepsy can help to reduce and ease symptoms in adults. The research implicitly recommends that parents of children with epilepsy, or of children who have had fever-related seizures, monitor for ADHD symptoms, particularly low or declining academic performance or behavioral or social issues.