Genetic Psychiatric Disorders Cited in Fetal Alcohol Effects Patients

Article excerpt

GRAPEVINE, TEX. -- The behavioral and cognitive defects in children with fetal alcohol effects may be partly attributable to genetic psychiatric disorders, researchers reported in a poster presentation at a meeting sponsored by the American College of Medical Genetics.

"Physicians need to ask about psychiatric and behavioral illnesses in families when diagnosing children with fetal alcohol effects [FAE]," said Helga V. Toriello, Ph.D., director of genetics services, Spectrum Health, Grand Rapids, Mich. "Acquiring a family history is important, because they suddenly may be dealing with genetic factors rather than alcohol."

While the diagnostic criteria for fetal alcohol syndrome are firm, the criteria for fetal alcohol effects are less clear and may overlap with other psychiatric and behavioral disorders, she said.

Researchers at Spectrum and DeVos Children's Hospital, also in Grand Rapids, found that 95% of children thought to have fetal alcohol effects also had psychiatric or behavioral disorders and that 89% had a first-degree relative with a psychiatric or behavioral disorder.

The study included 100 children aged 3-19 years who had been seen to determine whether they had fetal alcohol syndrome. None of the children fit the criteria for fetal alcohol syndrome and thus could be considered to have FAE.

But after conducting family histories, the researchers found a high rate of psychiatric and behavioral illnesses such as bipolar depression and attention-deficit disorder, not only in the children but in first-degree relatives.

"This raises the question of how much of the behavioral problems are due to psychiatric illness or alcohol exposure," she asked. …