Adrenoleukdystrophy and ADHD

Adrenoleukdystrophy and ADHD

Adrenoleukodystrophy (ALD) is an X-linked genetic disease that affects the brain and adrenal glands. In ALD, mutations in the ABCD1 gene result in the accumulation of a type of fat called saturated very-long-chain fatty acids (VLCFAs) in these organs, leading to their dysfunction.

The behavioral symptoms of children affected by ALD overlap with those of attention-deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD), which often result in misdiagnosis.

Here are a few questions to ask to distinguish ALD from ADHD:

Is there a family history of attention deficit?

Because ADHD is also influenced by genetics, knowing the patient’s family history is important before arriving at a diagnosis. Have any family members shown learning disabilities, attention disorders, or behavioral problems without a confirmed diagnosis of ALD or Addison’s disease? If so, it could be a case of ADHD and not ALD.

When do attention disorders first appear?

Attention problems in ADHD usually start in preschool whereas the behavioral symptoms of ALD appear later, usually between the ages of 6 and 10. Note when attention deficits first start to appear and mention this to your doctor.

Are there any other symptoms?

ALD has other symptoms such as depression, anxiety, and seizures, which are more severe than in ADHD. In addition, ALD patients show adrenal insufficiency (the inability to produce enough of the adrenal hormones cortisol and aldosterone), which is not seen in ADHD patients.

Does the patient respond to ADHD medication?

If your child has been diagnosed with ADHD and is receiving medications, observe his or her response. If the symptoms of ADHD do not improve, you may be advised to get your child tested for ALD.


Last updated: Oct. 7, 2019


Adrenoleukodystrophy News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.

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Özge has a MSc. in Molecular Genetics from the University of Leicester and a PhD in Developmental Biology from Queen Mary University of London. She worked as a Post-doctoral Research Associate at the University of Leicester for six years in the field of Behavioural Neurology before moving into science communication. She worked as the Research Communication Officer at a London based charity for almost two years.

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