March 10, 2017
ADHD Diagnosis: Hurting Patients or Helping Doctors?
We’ve all heard of ADHD. A prevalent mental disorder, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder has become increasingly common in classrooms and workplaces. As awareness continues to grow, teachers and doctors alike are continuously on the lookout for symptoms, specifically in children. But are we misinformed?
On average, 143 to 266 billion dollars are spent on ADHD care in the US every year2. It’s a booming market and as awareness spreads, so do the bank accounts of pharmaceutical companies claiming to solve the issue.
It’s about supply and demand. Pharmaceutical companies hire doctors to research ADHD and find viable solutions to the problem. In doing so, the symptoms list grows, concerning a larger majority of the population and expanding the customer base. As more people are diagnosed, more people learn about the disorder. Although this is good news for ADHD patients, the risk increases for those who are misdiagnosed, especially children who are battling to perform at school and establish social skills.
ADHD diagnosis in North America is championed by three main symptoms: inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity3. These symptoms are monitored in the behaviour of potential patients, without any definite testing. That means no brain scans, no blood tests, and no quantitative base for diagnosis. Due to this, the College of Optometrists in Vision Development warn that many undetected and untreated vision problems have the same or similar symptoms that are common to ADHD4. Without proper testing for all possible disorders, no parent can be certain that their children are obtaining proper treatment for their issues.
Considering the ambiguity of these terms and the potentially long-lasting effects of popular medications such as Ritalin, you would expect there to be further research conducted on the illness and its solutions. However, this may not be the case. ADHD is a healthy market, with retention rates soaring. The average parent spends $12,447 per year on treatment for children ages 3 to 4 and $2,222 to $4,690 per year on children ages 5 to 122. As children enter adulthood, losses in productivity and income are the main reasons why 60% of adults in the US claim to have ADHD2.
School systems and teachers are also connected to the ADHD epidemic. Failures in discipline and instruction are often medicalized as learning disabilities instead of teaching shortfalls1. This leads to inconsistent behaviour between home and the classroom.
The system runs full circle. Teachers tell parents about their child’s assumed ADHD and parents go to their doctor with the same concern. Unfortunately, due to the gray area around ADHD testing, doctors are likely to diagnose. It’s a win for everyone, except potentially the patient. Teachers can point to a disorder for poor school performance, doctors can profit from promoting pharmaceutical companies, and the pharmaceutical companies can increase both their customer base and their towering bottom line.
So what are we going to do about it?
Dr. Granet of the Children’s Eye Center believes all children suspected of ADHD should also be evaluated for convergence insufficiency4. Without proper testing for similar eye disorders, parents could be wasting thousands of dollars attempting to fix a problem that does not exist. If the children are diagnosed with a vision disorder, they can participate in eye therapy programs that can produce effective results in under a year. At Eyecarrot, we have introduced an app called BinoviTM Coach to help patients make the most out of their vision therapy programs. Available on both iPhone and Android, this app connects patients with doctors using BinoviTM Pro to develop personalized treatment plans that involve patients in home-based vision therapy activities. Completed activities are automatically logged and both parties can track progress over time. Check out the video below to see how it all works.
The bottom line is to know your options. Before breaking the bank over potentially dangerous prescription drugs, ensure that you or your child has been fairly tested for all possible health issues, most importantly, vision disorders that can be addressed through vision therapy. This capacity to ask questions and seek solutions is the best source of physical and financial health for your child – especially in the age of ADHD.