Depression Treatment and Arthritis

Depression treatment may improve symptoms of arthritis

Several studies have shown that treatment for depression may improve symptoms of arthritis.  However, a recent study found that if care for depression is enhanced and more personalized, the impact on arthritis may even be greater.

The study, published in the November 12, 2003, issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association, followed more than 1,000 men and women over the age of 60.  Participants had been diagnosed with both depression and arthritis.  More than 90 percent of the participants had osteoarthritis.

Half of the participants were assigned to enhanced care for depression – a personalized progam including education and treatment options such as antidepressant medications and psychotherapy sessions.  This program was provided by a professional depression care manager in collaboration with a psychiatrist and each participant’s primary care doctor.  The other study of participants were assigned to routine care.  They received referrals to specialty mental health services and antidepressant medication only as  deemed necessary by the doctor or patient.

Participants receiving enhanced depression care had more favorable outcomes than did those who received routine depression care.  They were almost twice as likely to experience a 50 percent reduction in symptoms of depression.  They also reported less interference in daily activies due to arthritis, a significant decrease in pain intensity, and increased quality of life.  Because changes in arthritis management weren’t monitored, it’s unknown whether differences in arthritis treatment may have affected the results.

Depression adversely influences the perception of pain and its lever of intensity.  Treating depression may help the pain of arthritis become less bothersome and be more manageable.

Mayo Clinic doctors say that treatment options for arthritis related pain and disability are currenlty limited, and this study suggests another helpful approach to arthritis management, especially if people with arthritis are found to have depression as well.  Depression needs to be adequately treated in all cases, particularly when accompanied by pain from an additoinal medical condition.

Depression is one of the most comon medical problems in the United States and around the world.  It’s estimated that at some piont in life, about one in four Americans will experience at least one episode of depression.

The good new is that depression can be successfully treated.  Thanks to improved medications and the availability of other medical and psychological therapies, you can overcome depression, not just endure it.  With proper treatment, most people with depression improve – typically within weeks – and are able to return to their usual activities.

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