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Seniors’ Health: Parkinson’s disease and depression go hand in hand

Canadian study suggests depressive symptoms such as fatigue and insomnia often go untreated

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Depression affects up to half of people with Parkinson’s disease — a brain disorder that causes tremors and difficulty with movement — but a recent Canadian study suggests there’s room for improvement when it comes to diagnosing and treating it.

The investigators also found that Parkinson’s patients who remained depressed experienced greater disability and were more likely to start Parkinson’s medications earlier.

The researchers screened more than 400 people who were in the early stages of Parkinson’s disease and hadn’t yet started treatment. Over a 15-month period, 28 per cent showed signs of depression. Of these patients, 40 per cent were neither treated with antidepressants nor referred for further psychiatric evaluation, 25 per cent were already receiving treatment for their depression but had persistent symptoms, and only 35 per cent began some form of treatment during the study period. Not surprisingly, more severely depressed patients were more likely to be treated.

Dr. Richard Camicioli, a study co-author and neurologist at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, says depression appears to be undiagnosed in the early stages of Parkinson’s disease because depressive symptoms such as fatigue and insomnia might be mistakenly attributed to the Parkinson’s disease.

However, in his study, depressive symptoms in this group were associated with difficulty in performing daily activities such as eating, bathing and dressing, and increased the likelihood of starting on medications for Parkinson’s by nearly twofold.