High Rates of Comorbidities in Bipolar Disorder

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Patients who suffer from bipolar disorder have rates of medical comorbidities that are higher than those who have depression alone.

Nick Craddock, PhD, of Cardiff University, United Kingdom, and colleagues examined the rates of medical illnesses in more than 1700 patients with bipolar disorder and more than 1700 patients with unipolar depression.

Elevated rates of medical illnesses was linked to a history of anxiety disorder, rapid cycling mood episodes and suicide attempts, the researchers reported in The British Journal of Psychiatry.

The most common medical conditions in both the bipolar and unipolar groups were migraine headache (23.7 and 21.9%, respectively), asthma (19.2 and 13.1%), elevated cholesterol (19.2 and 9.7%), hypertension (15.0 and 16.8%), thyroid disease (12.9 and 8.2%) and osteoarthritis (10.8 and 10.9%).

Researchers also found in the bipolar group no meaningful difference between those with and without a history of medical illnesses when it came to alcohol abuse or smoking rates.

“This comorbidity needs to be taken into account by services in order to improve outcomes for patients with bipolar disorder and also in research investigating the aetiology of affective disorder where shared biological pathways may play a role,” the researchers concluded.

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High Rates of Comorbidities in Bipolar Disorder

Patients with bipolar disorder have high rates of medical illness, which often exceeds the levels observed in patients with unipolar depression, show results of a UK-based study.

Researchers found that a high medical illness burden was significantly associated with a history of anxiety disorder , rapid cycling mood episodes, suicide attempts, and mood episodes with a typically acute onset. 

There were no significant differences between the bipolar group with no history of medical illness and those with a high burden of medical illness in the rates of alcohol misuse or smoking.

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