While people with ADHD experience the inattention, impulsiveness and hyperactivity that are hallmarks of the disorder, they also may need to be aware of their higher risk for many physical diseases.
New research has identified higher risks in nervous system, respiratory, musculoskeletal and metabolic diseases among individuals who have ADHD.
“Identifying co-occurring physical diseases may have important implications for treating adults with ADHD and for benefiting the long-term health and quality of life of patients,” lead author Ebba Du Rietz said in a news release from the Karolinska Institute in Sweden. She’s a postdoctoral researcher at Karolinska’s Department of Medical Epidemiology and Biostatistics.
The study also examined whether genetic or environmental factors are at play in the increased risk. The researchers found the increased risk was largely due to genetic factors that contributed both to ADHD and the physical disease, with the exception of nervous system disorders and age-related diseases. Full siblings of individuals with ADHD also had significantly increased risk for most physical conditions.
In the study, the research team identified more than 4 million full-sibling and maternal half-sibling pairs born between 1932 and 1995 through Swedish registers. The participants were followed between 1973 and 2013.
Researchers also accessed clinical diagnoses through the Swedish National Patient Register, examining 35 different physical conditions in individuals with ADHD compared to those without and in siblings of individuals with ADHD compared to siblings of those without.
For individuals with ADHD, the strongest associations were found for nervous system, respiratory, musculoskeletal and metabolic diseases. Most strongly associated with ADHD were alcohol-related liver disease, sleep disorders, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), epilepsy, fatty liver disease and obesity. ADHD was also linked to a slightly increased risk of cardiovascular disease, Parkinson’s disease and dementia.
“These results are important because stimulant [drug] therapy requires careful monitoring in ADHD patients with co-occurring cardiac disease, hypertension and liver failure,” said senior author Henrik Larsson, a professor at Örebro University and affiliated researcher at the Karolinska Institute.
ADHD is a neuropsychiatric disorder commonly treated with stimulant therapy, including methylphenidates or amphetamines. Detailed treatment guidelines for adults with ADHD and physical diseases that could accompany it are largely lacking.
The researchers plan to study the underlying mechanisms and risk factors. They will also study the impact of ADHD on management and prognosis of these physical diseases in adults.
The American Psychiatric Association has more on ADHD.
SOURCE: Karolinska Institute, news release, July 6, 2021