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Depression Common in Parkinson's

Many Depressed Parkinson's Disease Patients Don’t Get Depression Treatment
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

July 11, 2007 -- Parkinson's disease and depression often go together, and depression is often untreated in Parkinson's patients, a new study shows.

Doctors and patients may mistake depression symptoms as part of Parkinson's disease, note the researchers.

They included Barnard Ravina, MD, MSCE, of the neurology department at New York's University of Rochester, and Richard Camicioli, MD, of the neurology department at Canada's University of Alberta.

"It is crucial for health care professionals to make an effort to detect, diagnose, and properly treat depression in Parkinson patients," says Camicioli in a University of Alberta news release.

Parkinson's and Depression Study

The researchers followed 413 newly diagnosed Parkinson's disease patients for nearly 15 months.

When the study began, the patients hadn't started taking Parkinson's disease drugs, since they were still in the early stages of Parkinson's disease.

Parkinson's disease is a brain disease that develops gradually. It affects certain brain cells that make a chemical called dopamine, which the brain uses to coordinate the body's movements.

As dopamine-making brain cells die, Parkinson's symptoms develop, including tremor, difficulty walking, and problems with balance.

In the new study, Parkinson's patients completed surveys about their depression symptoms every six months.

Overall, more than a quarter of the patients -- nearly 28% -- were depressed during the study. Among the depressed patients, 40% of those patients didn't get depression treatment (antidepressants or referral for further psychiatric evaluation).

Depressed Parkinson's Patients

When the study started, about a quarter of the patients reported a history of depression and almost 14% of all patients were currently depressed.

During the study, 57 patients became depressed.

Depressed patients were more likely to report having problems with daily tasks and to start taking Parkinson's disease drugs sooner than patients who weren't depressed.

Depressed patients also reported lower quality of life than patients who weren't depressed. But depression didn't appear to aggravate movement problems over time.

Typical depression cases were mild but still hampered the patients' lives. Severely depressed patients were more likely to get depression treatment.

The results "suggest that depression, particularly mild depression, is common early in [Parkinson's] disease and is associated with increased disability," write the researchers.

They write that some depressed patients remained depressed despite depression treatment and may have needed more intensive psychiatric care.

Some doctors may have attributed depression symptoms to Parkinson's disease, the researchers also suggest.

They call for further studies on recognizing and treating depression in Parkinson's disease patients.

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