Depression as a contributing factor in cerebrovascular disease.
Stroke is a leading cause of morbidity and mortality in the United States. Physical and psychological impairment from stroke may negatively affect quality of life. From a psychological perspective, depression, which is common in stroke patients, may influence functional recovery and possibly mortality after a stroke. Although somewhat controversial, the risk of poststroke depression may be related to lesion location, specifically left anterior or left basal ganglia lesions. Because poststroke depression can affect recovery, treatment with antidepressants may be warranted. Emerging evidence suggests that nortriptyline and fluoxetine may be effective; paroxetine, sertraline, and other selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors have shown efficacy in treating a related phenomenon known as pathologic crying. The influence of depression on the risk of stroke has not been extensively studied; however, several epidemiologic studies raise the possibility that a relation exists. In one study of elderly individuals, higher depressive symptoms increased the risk of stroke. Many older individuals who have depression develop later in life have evidence of subtle cerebrovascular disease. Specifically, silent strokes that do not involve the sensory or motor parts of the brain are quite common in the elderly population. Vascular depression is depression that occurs in patients with cerebrovascular or ischemic changes in the brain. Preliminary evidence indicates that these vascular changes may be related to atherosclerosis, hypertension, or myocardial infarction. However, additional studies are needed to gain a better profile of these patients and to explore potential treatment modalities.
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