Depression in People with RA
People with rheumatoid arthritis are twice as likely to experience depression but are unlikely to talk to a doctor about it, according to researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and published in the February issue of Arthritis Care & Research.
Betsy Sleath, PhD, the study’s chief investigator, said that although depression in primary care settings has been well examined, no previous studies have looked at whether rheumatologists and RA patients discuss depression during medical visits.
In the study, researchers found that almost 11 percent of people with RA had moderately severe to severe symptoms of depression. Those who were rated as being more restricted in their normal activities were significantly more likely to have these symptoms.
The study also found that only one in five of the patients who showed symptoms of depression discussed it with their rheumatologists. Those who did were always the ones to bring up the topic, not the physician. When depression was brought up, it was often not discussed at any length.
“Chronic diseases can greatly affect a patient’s psychosocial well-being, and depression can also affect a patient’s adherence to treatment regimens,” Sleath said. “Since many arthritis patients see their rheumatologist more often then their primary-care physician, we recommend that rheumatologists take steps to screen patients for signs of depression.”
In addition to screening for depression, Sleath said it is important for patients to have access to appropriate treatment. Rheumatologists can treat the depression themselves, refer patients to a mental health professional or communicate with the patient’s primary-care physician to coordinate a treatment plan.
This article was adapted from a press release issued by University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Sleath B, Chewning B, de Vellis BM, et al. Communication about depression during rheumatoid arthritis patient visits. Arthritis Rheum (Arthritis Care Res) 2008;59:186-91.