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Depression in IPF: something to pay close attention to

When you are diagnosed with a disease like idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), you are not only facing physical challenges. The diagnosis and the disease impose on your mental wellbeing as well, and depression might be lurking. Indeed, research shows that depression is relatively common in IPF-patients. Researchers therefore argue that close attention should be paid to the screening and management of depression in IPF. 

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It's important to pay attention to the symptoms of depression, even if the lung function isn't really all that bad

Japanese researchers recently screened a group of 121 IPF-patients, of which 27 had borderline or definite depression. Depression turned out to be an important factor in the health status of these patients. The researchers therefore think that effective management of depression, such as counseling, may improve the quality of life of IPF-patients. They state that it's important to pay attention to the symptoms of depression, even if the lung function isn't really all that bad. Depression should be routinely screened in patients with IPF and appropriate supportive management, including psychological counseling and antidepressants, should be offered.

Your psychological state is just as important and should always be taken seriously.

Kim Fredrickson, diagnosed with IPF in 2014, confirms the findings of the Japanese researchers. She indicates that it's really normal to feel sad, frustrated, angry and overwhelmed when you receive the diagnosis of IPF. She also points to the fact that it's common for patients, as well as caregivers, to struggle with depression because of ongoing stress and grief. Luckily, she says, there are a lot of options to deal with depression. Apart from medication, which is something you can always discuss with your doctor, there are things like talk therapy, exercise and support groups. Because after all, it's not just the function of your lungs that determines how you feel, your psychological state is just as important and should always be taken seriously.

Recently, professor Demosthenos Bouros and his Greek colleagues also presented their findings regarding the impact of depression on patients with IPF at the American Thoracic Society (ATS) annual congress in Washington. They studied prospectively 72 IPF patients without previous depression and found that in 39% of these patients, depression exerted a significant impact on disease severity, symptom burden and quality of life. Further prospective studies should investigate the role of antidepressant drug therapy in patients with IPF and comorbid depression, according to these researchers.


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