Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Bipolar Disorder Rise In Kids, Teens Doubted

A new analysis suggests a huge increase in the number of U.S. children and teenagers diagnosed with bipolar disorder, but experts question whether the surge is real and say some kids have been mislabeled.

Researchers looked at the number of times people younger than 19 went to the doctor and were diagnosed with or treated for bipolar disorder, also known as manic depression. They found a 40-fold increase over a decade, from an estimated 20,000 visits in 1994 to 800,000 in 2003. The jump coincided with the rising use of antipsychotic medicine for children.

The numbers echo other estimates suggesting that as many as 1 million U.S. children are bipolar, but it remains a controversial diagnosis in children. That is partly because their symptoms often differ from adults' and because most powerful antipsychotic drugs used to treat bipolar disorder were approved for adults and have not been well studied in children and adolescents.

Some doctors believe bipolar disorder does not occur in children, and until last month there was only one drug approved to treat the illness in kids.

The study's lead author, Mark Olfson of Columbia University and the New York State Psychiatric Institute, said the results likely reflect overdiagnosis now or underdiagnosis in the past, rather than a true increase. Olfson has received speaking fees from Janssen LP, which makes one of the pediatric bipolar drugs and has consulted for other makers of psychiatric drugs.

Symptoms include extreme mood swings and disruptive behavior. In children, extreme irritability is sometimes the main symptom.

The study appears in the September issue of Archives of General Psychiatry.

Obesity in Toddlers Tied to Low Iron Levels

Pudgy toddlers have an alarmingly high rate of iron deficiency, and Hispanic youngsters are more affected than other groups, a new study finds.

The study is the first to discover a link between obesity and low iron levels in toddlers. Iron deficiency can cause mental and behavioral delays, so the findings underscore the importance of healthful eating habits in children ages 1 to 3.

The researchers found that 20 percent of obese toddlers have iron deficiency, compared with 7 percent of normal-weight toddlers. Lack of iron reduces the amount of oxygen carried through the body by the blood and can cause anemia.

Experts blamed parents who let toddlers drink cow's milk and juice from a bottle, instead of weaning them from the bottle and introducing more iron-rich table foods, such as meat, beans, eggs, spinach and fortified breads.

Toddlers still fed from bottles tend to drink too much milk and juice, which are low in iron, and do not get enough solid food, said Jane Brotanek of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas and a study co-author. The study appears in the September issue of the journal Pediatrics.

CONTINUED     1        >

© 2007 The Washington Post Company