Feeling Blue With Alzheimer's

Mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimers disease behaviors made worse by depression

(RxWiki News) Losing mental skills can be hard to handle and may, understandably, lead to depression. Depression symptoms with dementia could intensify some problem behaviors, which may affect quality of life.

People with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and Alzheimer’s disease (AD) had more emotional problems, agitation and aggression when they also had depression.

In fact, depression symptoms in people with MCI got in the way of their functioning as much as having AD did. Treating depression may be important for some behaviors related to MCI and AD.

"Ask a doctor about depression screening."

Researchers, led by Sebastiaan Engelborghs, MD, PhD, of the Reference Center for Biological Markers of Dementia (BIODEM) at the Institute Born-Bunge of the University of Antwerp in Belgium, wanted to look at depression symptoms for people with MCI and AD. They interviewed 270 people with MCI and 402 people with AD. They talked to caregivers and patients about behaviors and depression symptoms.

They found that 25 percent of people with AD had depression symptoms. Depression symptoms were reported by 16 percent of people with MCI. 

The researchers looked at behavioral symptoms like aggressiveness, anxiety and emotion regulation problems. They found that all patients with depression symptoms reported behavioral symptoms. This was true for people with both MCI and AD.

For people without depression symptoms, most of the behavioral symptoms were mild, and about 20 percent of people in both the MCI and AD groups reported no behavioral symptoms.

People with AD had more severe symptoms than people with MCI. However, people with MCI and depression symptoms had more severe behaviors than people with AD who did not have depression symptoms

The authors concluded that depression symptoms can make some symptoms of dementia worse in ways that can get in the way of a good quality of life.

Screening for depression symptoms in people with MCI may be helpful for designing treatments that address these needs.

This study did not diagnose depression in people. It only measured the level of symptoms. Not all people in the study met the criteria for depression. This study was published December 17 in the International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry. The authors report no competing interests.

Many funding sources were listed including the Special Research Fund of the University of Antwerp, the Foundation for Alzheimer Research (SAO–FRMA), the Institute Born-Bunge and an unrestricted research grant from Lundbeck NV (Belgium).

Review Date: 
December 27, 2012