Depression in neurological disorders: an update

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Abstract

Purpose of review

Depressions are a heterogeneous group of conditions that contribute significantly to impairments in quality of life, independent of the severity of neurological illness. Depression may predate neurological signs and symptoms in the evolution of neurodegenerative disorders, and there is some evidence that depressive illness itself may be a risk factor in the aetiology of some dementias. This review aims to summarize the relevant current literature on diagnosis, aetiology and treatment of depression in neurology.

Recent findings

Diagnosing depression in neurological conditions can be particularly difficult because of communication difficulties and changes in emotional expression as a result of the underlying neurological disease. Rating scales loaded towards somatic symptoms can show poor validity for screening or rating of severity in this setting. The evidence for the treatment of depression in neurological disease is scant, and often the treatment advice is based on consensus views of clinicians. Nevertheless, there have been some clinical trials, which are reported.

Summary

Depression is common in neurology. It is underrecognized and undertreated. Recent research has allowed us to define depression more clearly in this setting. Trials of treatment are urgently needed, especially as depression is a significant factor in quality of life and may affect prognosis.

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