"Depression is the number-one factor negatively affecting the quality of life for people with Parkinson's disease," study author Dr. Irene Hegeman Richard, a neurologist at the University of Rochester Medical Center in Rochester, N.Y., said in a university news release. "It causes a great deal of suffering among patients. The great news here is that it's treatable. And when the depression is treated adequately, many of the other symptoms become much more manageable for patients."
Depression in Parkinson's disease is caused by the underlying disease process, not the stress of dealing with a chronic disease, she said.
Commenting on the study, Dr. Joe Verghese, a neurologist at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City, said the study provides good news for people with Parkinson's disease and depression. "There is always a concern that we may upset the applecart in Parkinson's by adding a new medication."
Dr. Roy Alcalay, an assistant professor of neurology at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City, agreed that treating depression in Parkinson's disease can be a delicate balance. "The new study validates what we have been doing," he said. "The medications used to treat depression in the general population work as well for Parkinson's disease, and there is no evidence that they have bad side effects on motor symptoms."
While the new study only looked at two antidepressants, "this doesn't mean that others don't work," Alcalay said. As to the robust placebo effect seen in the new study, he said that "just thinking that they are getting treated often helps people with depression."
Treating depression in Parkinson's is important, Alcalay said, and "the study helps us do so in a more educated way."
The U.S. National Institutes of Health/National Institute of Neurological Disorders
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