Oestrogen relieves psychotic symptoms in women

August 5th, 2008 - 12:02 pm ICT by IANS  

Sydney, Aug 5 (IANS) Oestrogen estradiol, when combined with anti-psychotic drugs, seems to be effective in treating women with schizophrenia, according to a new study. The link between oestrogen and mental illness was recognised more than a century ago. However, scientific evidence backing oestrogen as a mental illness therapy has only recently emerged.

“Epidemiologic observations of sex differences in the onset and course of schizophrenia prompted exploration of oestrogen’s role in schizophrenia,” the study authors wrote.

Jayashri Kulkarni of Alfred and Monash University and Alfred Hospital, Melbourne and colleagues conducted a randomised, double-blind study involving 102 women of child-bearing age with schizophrenia.

For 28 days, 56 women were randomly assigned to receive 100 micrograms of estradiol daily via a skin patch and 46 women received a placebo skin patch in addition to their regular medications.

Psychotic symptoms, which include delusions and hallucinatory behaviour, were assessed weekly with a commonly used scale.

The group of women taking estradiol exhibited a greater improvement in psychotic symptoms over time than did the women taking antipsychotic medications alone.

They also experienced a decline in positive symptoms - those which represent a distortion of normal functions. No difference was observed between the two groups regarding negative symptoms, those which occur when normal functions are lost or diminished.

Oestrogen may have a preventive role in women with schizophrenia who undergo hormonal changes shown to cause a deterioration of their condition, such as those following childbirth and menopause, the authors note. “Oestrogen treatment is a promising new area for future treatment of schizophrenia and potentially for other severe mental illnesses,” they conclude.

These findings were published in the August issue of Archives of General Psychiatry.

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