Doctors: More ways to treat ADHD than ever

More kids are being diagnosed with ADHA in the U.S. than ever before, studies show, but one doctor explains why this statistic could bring comfort to parents. 

New numbers from the CDC show about one in 10 kids is dealing with a brain disorder that makes it tough to focus, known as ADHD. It's a developmental problem typically diagnosed in childhood. 

Now, a recent study says that the number of children diagnosed with ADHD in the U.S. has sharply increased over the past 20 years. Part of the reason why we're seeing more ADHA diagnosis, though, is because doctors have more ways to treat the problem now than ever before.  

"Whenever there's a better treatment for diagnosis, we see more of it because people are more willing to give the diagnosis now that they know there's something that they can do," explains Dr. Veena Ahuja of Cleveland Clinic Children's.

The study looked at data on the number of children diagnosed with ADHD between 1997 and 2016. Researchers found that the percentage of children diagnosed with ADHD rose from about 6 percent to 10 percent in that time. ADHD is characterized by symptoms of inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity.  

Dr. Ahuja says that some children struggle with some of these symptoms, but not others, while others struggle with all of them.  

She says that ADHD can be genetic, as some parents who have children with ADHD will often recall having similar symptoms when they were children.  

But Dr. Ahuja says the good news is that children today have more resources and treatments available to help them thrive. She says a common concern among parents who suspect that their child may have ADHD is their child will be labeled in the classroom as a problem child.

Dr. Ahuja encourages parents whose children are displaying symptoms of ADHD to get an evaluation, because ultimately, a diagnosis can put the child in a better position to succeed.  

"What I will tell families a lot of times is that knowledge is power," says Dr. Ahuja. "The symptoms are there whether you give it the name or not. If we name it and describe it, then we can get programs in place to help. The child can get a 504 plan or an IEP in the school to get some supports."

There is no single test for ADHD. Doctors diagnose it after talking with children, their teachers, and their teachers. There's also a range for ADHD symptoms from minor struggles to severe. 

Treatments include both stimulant and non-stimulant medications, as well as behavioral therapy.