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ADHD Now, Dementia Later?

Adults With ADHD Symptoms Have Tripled Risk of Dementia Later, Study Finds
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ADHD and Dementia: The Study continued...

They found:

  •  47.8% of those with LBD had previous ADHD symptoms.
  • 15.2% of those with Alzheimer's disease had previous ADHD symptoms.
  • 15.1% of those in the healthy group did.

Why the link? "It is believed that the same neurotransmitter pathway problems are involved in the development of both conditions, so our research set out to test the theory that adult ADHD often precedes [Lewy body dementia],'' Golimstok says in a news release.

The researchers believe their study is the first to look at the link between ADHD symptoms and dementia.

In ADHD, often diagnosed in childhood, people have problems paying attention and can act impulsively. Symptoms can persist into adulthood.

“Our hypothesis is that ADHD could be the clinical result of the first step in these pathway disorders, and after a long time, this problem degenerates to a more severe pathology with structural changes in the brain, as Lewy Body Dementia is," Golimstok writes in an email interview with WebMD.

"A question to answer in the very near future is, Could available ADHD treatment prevent the conversion to a degenerative disease such as Lewy Body Dementia?" Golimstok writes.

ADHD and Dementia: Exploring the Link

Although the study doesn't prove cause and effect between ADHD and dementia, it is valuable, Leverenz says. 

"The importance in this study ... is that we are trying to identify early symptoms and characteristics that may predict who is at high risk of developing this disease," he says of LBD.

That way, when a preventive treatment does become available, he says, ''We can help these people."

An ADHD expert who also reviewed the study for WebMD says the conclusion is backward. Instead of saying that people with ADHD symptoms are three times as likely to get LBD, the researchers should have concluded that "patients with LBD had three times the rate of ADHD symptoms," says L. Eugene Arnold, MD, professor emeritus of psychiatry at Ohio State University's Nisonger Center and a longtime ADHD researcher.

But Arnold says the link found is worth exploring and that the neurotransmitter problems thought to be involved in ADHD in fact may also be involved in the dementia.

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