they affect the mental health of more than half of patients

they affect the mental health of more than half of patients

Researchers from the University of Cambridge and the King’s College London are sounding the alarm. More than half of patients with autoimmune diseases suffer from mental health issues like depression or anxiety, according to work they conducted and published in the journal Rheumatology July 26, 2023.

Autoimmune disease : 55% of patients suffer from depression

The study found that mental and neurological symptoms linked to autoimmune diseases are more numerous and more prevalent than previously reported. Researchers interviewed 1,853 patients achieved autoimmune diseases, such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, as well as 289 doctors specializing in these fields. They also conducted 113 interviews with patients and doctors.

Data analysis showed that 55% of patients affected by an autoimmune disease suffered from depression and 57% admitted to being anxious. In addition, 89% of the patients had felt intense fatigue and 70% had experienced cognitive dysfunction.

“The overall prevalence of symptoms was significantly higher than previously thought, and much higher than in a control group of healthy volunteers,” write the scientists in their press release.

Lupus: a lack of knowledge of the psychic disorders of the patients by the doctors

The mental health symptoms described by the patients contrasted sharply with the estimates of the physicians surveyed. For example, three times more of lupus patients reported having had suicidal thoughts compared to expert estimate (47% versus 15%).

Some physicians interviewed admitted to being more focused on joint symptoms than signs of mental health disorders, as “they were of the opinion that autoimmune diseases generally do not affect the brain”. Others pointed out that patients were rarely asked about it, leading to under-reporting of psychic symptoms.

For their part, the patients admitted that they did not report the mental health problems encountered to their doctors, sometimes feeling stigmatized. Several of the respondents indicated that even when they confided in their psychological symptoms, they were often not taken into account by their doctor.

Disease autoimmune : an urgent need to improve the management of disorders mental

The researchers believe that their study highlights an urgent need to improve patient access to mental health care and to strengthen collaboration between hospital departments to “ensure fairness in the management of the mental and physical health of patients”. They also highlight the importance of increasing physician awareness of the mental and neurological symptoms associated with autoimmune diseases.

“We have known for some time that having a systemic autoimmune disease can have a negative effect on mental health, but this study paints a startling picture of the extent and impact of these symptoms. Anyone working in healthcare with these patients should routinely ask questions about mental well-being, and patients should be encouraged to speak up without fear of judgment. No patient should suffer in silence.”said thee Dr Tom Pollak from the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience at King’s College London and one of the authors of the work.

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