Study: Tonsil, Adenoid Removal Could Aid In ADHD Treatment

New research suggests a surprising potential treatment for some children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

The treatment is the surgical removal of enlarged tonsils or adenoids. A new study showed removing them can result in impressive behavior changes.

Jacob Yoder, 8, needs a lot of energy to tackle the waves during his surfing adventures.

Nearly six months ago, Jacob did not have the energy for surfing or school.

"I would be tired a lot, and I wouldn't be focusing on my work,” said Jacob.

"He was having a hard time focusing in class, and it was wondered, 'Did he have ADHD?'" said Dr. Seth Pransky of Rady Children’s Hospital.

Jacob’s mother, Dana Yoder, said, "I didn't know what was wrong with him."

The problem was not ADHD, but rather the quality of Jacob’s sleep, according to Pransky.

"There is an association between the breathing difficulties and the behavior problems," said Pransky.

Jacob would toss and turn, snore and gasp frequently at night -- the hallmarks of sleep-disordered breathing.

“I had no idea he was suffering from sleep problems,” said Yoder.

"Sometimes children will sleep for 12 hours, but the quality of sleep is so poor that they are simply not getting what their body needs to reenergize," said Pransky.

Pransky said enlarged adenoids or tonsils could cause nighttime breathing problems that can result in behavioral problems in the day.

"There are going to be children whose emotions are released by their sleep disorder who will behave as if they are inattentive or unable to concentrate because they are tired due to not sleeping well," added Pransky.

A series of studies including the latest one from the University of Kansas Medical Center showed when enlarged tonsils or adenoids are removed, the behavior changes dramatically.

"It clearly shows that about half of those who were diagnosed with ADHD improved significantly after having a simple tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy," said Pransky.

Just two weeks after Jacob had his tonsils and adenoids removed, Yoder said she saw a dramatic change.

"The circles went away, he was sleeping well at night, he would get up and not argue with me about school because he wasn't tired anymore," said Yoder.

Taking out the tonsils and adenoids is not the cure for ADHD in every case, according to physicians. It is one of the things that need to be considered when there are breathing problems at night and daytime behavior problems.

For Jacob, the surgery made all of the difference on and off the beach.

“I was concentrating more. It made me feel good,” said Jacob.

Snoring is the most common symptom of obstructive sleep apnea, which occurs when breathing stops and starts repeatedly during the night.

Sleep apnea usually happens because the throat is narrowed or blocked, keeping air from getting into the windpipe and lungs.

If you suspect your child may be suffering from a sleep disorder, make an appointment with your child’s physician for an evaluation.

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