Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or AD/HD, is a disorder in which an individual consistently shows certain behaviors over time. The three categories for these behaviors are inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity.
In people who have ADD, the parts of the brain areas that control attention use less glucose than in other individuals. This indicates that the areas are less active. The lower activity level seems to cause inattention. No one knows for sure why these brain areas are less active.
People with AD/HD may show the following signs of inattention: being easily distracted by sights, sounds, and other stimulilosing or forgetting tools and materials needed for a jobmaking careless mistakes because of poor attention to details
Someone who has AD/HD may also show signs of impulsivity and hyperactivity, such as: feeling restless much of the timefidgeting or squirminghaving trouble waiting in lineinterrupting while another person is speakingmoving around when quiet behavior is expected
No one knows the exact cause of AD/HD. Most experts believe that the following factors may play a role in causing AD/HD: environmental toxins, such as leadgeneticssmoking or alcohol use by the mother during pregnancyuse of illegal drugs, such as cocaine, by the mother during pregnancy
Many times, AD/HD cannot be prevented. The following measures may be helpful: obtaining good prenatal care beginning in the first trimester of pregnancyavoiding pregnancy risk factors, such as drugs, alcohol, and smokingtaking steps to avoid lead poisoning in the environment
Diagnosis of AD/HD begins with a medical history and physical exam. The healthcare provider will look for behaviors that are typical of AD/HD. In order to diagnose AD/HD, the provider must determine that the behaviors have certain characteristics: They are more frequent or severe than in other people of the same age group.They create significant disability in at least two areas such as school, home, work, or social settings.They started early in life, before the age of 7.They have been constant for at least 6 months.
The healthcare provider may order tests to rule out other disorders. These tests may include: allergy testsblood and urine testscranial CT scancranial MRI
Without effective treatment, AD/HD can cause serious problems at school, home, work, and social settings.
ADHD is not contagious. It poses no risk to others. There may be a genetic component to the disorder.
Treatment for AD/HD usually involves medicine along with one or more other strategies. The most common medicine for AD/HD is a stimulant called methylphenidate. This medicine is available in a number of name-brand products, such as Ritalin, Concerta, or Metadate.
Other medicines used to treat AD/HD include the following: amphetamines, such as Adderall, Dexedrine, or Dextrostatantidepressants, such as desipramine (i.e., Norpramin) or bupropion (i.e., Wellbutrin)medicines normally used to treat high blood pressure, such as clonidine (i.e., Catapres)
Medicines are often used together with other treatment strategies, such as: cognitive behavioral therapyemotional counselingpractical support for activities of daily livingpsychotherapysocial skills training for the individualstress management trainingsupport groups
Side effects from medicines can include the following: headacheinvoluntary muscle movementsloss of appetitemood changes as medicine wears offsleep disordersweight management problems
A person who is receiving any form of therapy may show an initial increase in negative behavior. This may last until new behaviors become routine.
Treatment and monitoring of AD/HD can be lifelong for many patients, although for some, the symptoms seem to reduce or go away over time.
Any new or worsening symptoms should be reported to the healthcare provider.