New evidence suggests that effective treatment of depression may also slow the progress of multiple sclerosis (MS) in these patients.
Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, treated 14 depressed MS patients using either psychotherapy or sertraline for 16 weeks. They found that, among patients who had relapsing remitting (off and on) MS, a reduction in the symptoms of depression was accompanied by a reduction in levels of interferon gamma (an immune system glycoprotein that hastens the development of MS).
Other studies have found that patients reporting excessive stress have demonstrated new brain lesions within months. Now, with this study, it appears the opposite may also be true.
As many as 50 per cent of MS patients suffer from depression. In this study, symptoms of depression and production of both types of interferon gamma declined significantly during treatment, suggesting that managing depression could be an important component in the management of patients with MS (Arch Neurol, 2001; 58: 1081-6).