Depression appears to worsen the symptoms of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), according to a new study.
COPD is an umbrella term for a number of chronic lung disorders, including bronchitis and emphysema. It is a progressive, disabling condition caused by a narrowing of the airways. An estimated 380,000 people in Ireland are affected.
This latest study, which looked at almost 1,600 COPD patients over a three-year period, found that those who already had depression, or who developed depression after their COPD diagnosis, were more likely to suffer with heightened COPD symptoms, such as breathlessness.
Those with COPD and depression also performed worse in exercise tests than people with COPD who did not have depression. This suggests that those with depression are more likely to have problems performing daily activities.
"We have found a previously unknown link between the brain and COPD. Mental health can have repercussions elsewhere in body, in this case, exacerbating the negative effects of COPD and poor prognosis in health outcomes," commented lead researcher, Dr Abebaw Yohannes, of Manchester Metropolitan University in the UK.
He believes that these results have implications for healthcare providers, as screening people with COPD for mental health problems could reduce COPD-related hospital re-admissions.
"Essentially, we can treat the brain to treat the lungs and this is something health practitioners should be aware of when working with COPD patients.
"It creates a strong argument for vigorous screening of mental health problems in patients who are admitted in the short-term for exacerbations of COPD. Managing mental health problems associated with COPD should be an important part of the management plan for the short-term as well as the discharge planning with longer-term follow-up," Dr Yohannes said.
The researchers added that they believe that depression in people with COPD is chronic and inadequately treated.
Details of these findings are published in the journal, Chest.
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