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Estrogen May Have Preventive Role in Women's Schizophrenia

Symptoms, including delusions, hallucinatory behavior, improved with estradiol, study says

MONDAY, Aug. 4 (HealthDay News) -- The estrogen estradiol, when combined with antipsychotic drugs, may help relieve psychotic symptoms in women with schizophrenia, an Australian study suggests.

It included 102 women of child-bearing age with schizophrenia. For 28 days, 56 of the women received 100 micrograms of estradiol daily via a skin patch, while the other 46 received a placebo via a skin patch.

The women's psychotic symptoms, including delusions and hallucinatory behavior, were assessed weekly, and those taking estradiol showed a greater improvement in symptoms.

The study was published in the August issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry.

Estrogen's neuroprotective and psychoprotective actions may be mediated by a variety of routes, ranging from rapid actions, including antioxidant effects and enhancement of cerebral blood flow and cerebral glucose utilization, to slower, genomic mechanisms, which may include permanent modification of neural circuits, the study authors wrote.

The lack of effect for negative symptoms is consistent with literature reporting that negative symptoms are less responsive to treatment than other symptoms of schizophrenia. It is possible that longer-term treatment is required for negative symptoms to respond to treatment. Alternatively, brain regions implicated in negative symptoms may be less responsive to gonadal hormone effects.

The study authors said estrogen may have a preventive role in women with schizophrenia who have childbirth- or menopause-related hormonal changes known to cause a deterioration of their condition.

"Estrogen treatment is a promising new area for future treatment of schizophrenia and potentially for other severe mental illnesses," they concluded.

More information

Mental Health America has more about schizophrenia.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: JAMA/Archives journals, news release, Aug. 4, 2008

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