A new study conducted by researchers at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) found two rare tumors, pheochromocytoma and paragangliomas, masquerading as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children. The tumors secrete a substance that stimulates the central nervous system that may cause health care providers to misdiagnose and inappropriately treat patients for ADHD.
The substance, catecholamines, is an organic compound that is also naturally derived from the amino acid Tyrosine, one of the 22 amino acids that are used by cells to synthesize proteins. The compound activates receptors on the cell that trigger a biochemical chain of events inside the cell, and depending on the cell, the response may alter the cell’s metabolism, shape, gene expression, or ability to divide.
The researchers looked at 43 children with these tumors from January 2006 through May 2014 and found nine of the children (21%) had been diagnosed with ADHD before the discovery of their tumors. Four of the nine children had been treated with ADHD drugs (amphetamine, dexroamphetamin or methylphenidate). After evaluating the group of pediatric patients, the researchers concluded that inappropriate treatment could have potentially worsened tumor symptoms and caused some children to develop headaches, excessive sweating and hypertension.
Upon the removal of the tumors, three of the nine children no longer experienced ADHD symptoms. According to the authors of the research, one warning sign of children with tumors masquerading as ADHD was the presence of high blood pressure.
Although this study was conducted on a small group of individuals and more research is needed to rule out statistical errors, it does shed some light on alternative causes of hyperactivity in children and may lead to better diagnoses and understanding of the problem behind the increase in ADHD.
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