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Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

Treating ADD in Diabetic Children



Our daughter (age 9) began taking Ritalin last December for ADD, and the treatment has been very successful. Last month, she also received a diagnosis of Type I Diabetes. What do we parents and her physicians need to know about treating ADD in diabetic kids? Are there any journal articles that deal with this situation? At the moment our endocrinologist and pediatrician have encouraged us to continue with the Ritalin, which we have done, as it seems to help her comply with her diabetes management.


I ran a search for you through Internet Grateful Med and did not find any journals specifically linking ADD and Type I diabetes. However, it will be very important for her to manage her ADD so she will be able to attend to her daily treatment plan for her diabetes and to not be impulsive in her eating habits. One side effect of Ritalin in children is weight loss. Children with newly diagnosed Type I diabetes are typically very thin; in addition, these children have a higher risk of having an eating disorder than do those children from the general population. In actuality, children with chronic conditions, such as diabetes, attention deficit disorder, etc., also run the risk of more dissatisfaction with their body image and attempt more dramatic weight loss as they become adolescents. The challenge will be to try to not make food an issue of control. Nothing is more difficult for a parent than to want to make your child eat when you are hoping to help them stay healthy. Your example of how you yourselves use food in your own lives will serve as a role model to your daughter. Certainly her exercise activities should also be encouraged to balance her diabetes and ADD. NetWellness has plans to add an expert area of diabetes in the next month. You might want to refer a question to this expert. This would be a good additional resource for you as she continues to manage her ADD and diabetes through school age and adolescent years. Both your pediatrician and endocrinologist are excellent resources for you. Good communication skills with your health care providers, your daughter and each other will pay major dividends as she matures. Good Luck!

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Response by:

Marcia   Hern, RN, EdD Marcia Hern, RN, EdD
College of Nursing
University of Cincinnati