Researchers investigating the possible link between epilepsy, febrile seizures (childhood convulsions that generally happen during a fever), and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) found that children with epilepsy and, to a lesser extent, febrile seizures, have a higher risk of developing ADHD.
The research paper, “Childhood Epilepsy, Febrile Seizures, and Subsequent Risk of ADHD,” was published in the journal Pediatrics.
Aarhus University researchers followed 906,379 people born in Denmark from 1990 to 2007 for up to 22 years (up to 2012). They evaluated the incidence for ADHD and compared it with children and individuals with epilepsy and those without these conditions. The results were adjusted for variables such as socioeconomic and perinatal risk factors and family history of neurologic and psychiatric disorders.
Of those studied, 21,079 individuals (2.3 percent) developed ADHD, 13,500 (1.5 percent) were diagnosed with epilepsy, and almost 34,000 (3.8 percent) reported febrile seizures. Researchers found that children with epilepsy were almost three times as likely to develop ADHD compared to kids without epilepsy. Children with febrile seizures also had an increased risk (20 to 35 percent) of developing ADHD compared to those without seizures.
In children with both epilepsy and febrile seizures, the risk was more than three times higher.
“Our findings indicate a strong association between epilepsy in childhood and, to a lesser extent, febrile seizure and subsequent development of ADHD, even after adjusting for socioeconomic and perinatal risk factors, and family history of epilepsy, febrile seizures, or psychiatric disorders,” the authors wrote.
Although a causality between epilepsy, febrile seizures, and ADHD could not be established, the results appear to show enough evidence for parents to be vigilant about possible ADHD symptoms in children with these disorders.
“It is vital that, when caring for a child with epilepsy, some of the medical visit involves attention to academic achievement and psychosocial functioning,” Dr. Josiane LaJoie, a pediatric neurologist at New-York University Langone Comprehensive Medical Center who was not involved in the study, said in a press release.
Other studies had provided evidence of these associations, although this study now establishes it in a much larger patient population. The existence of genetic or environmental factors that link all these central nervous system disorders is possible, but further research is needed.