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Researchers reported that finding at the American Psychiatric Association's annual meeting in New Orleans this week.
"Depression is a very common disorder and allergies are even more common," said study author Dr. Partam Manalai, in the department of psychiatry at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore. "Allergies make one more prone to worsening mood, cognition and quality of life."
A large peak in pollen particles floating in the air occurs in the spring, with a smaller peak in the fall. This coincides with a worldwide spike in suicides every spring and a lower peak in the fall.
To explore this relationship, Manalai and his colleagues recruited 100 volunteers from Baltimore and Washington, D.C., who had major depression. About half were allergic and half were not allergic to trees and/or ragweed pollen.
Volunteers were evaluated during both high-pollen season and low-pollen season, and also had levels of their IgE antibodies (a measure of sensitivity to allergens) measured.
This is believed to be the first study to link actual IgE measurements with depression scores.
"Patients with mood disorders who were allergic to an aeroallergen experienced a worsening in mood when they were exposed to the allergen," Manalai said. "Patients who have both of these disorders might be more vulnerable to depression in peak pollen season," he suggested.
"Treating those conditions might prevent them from having a depressive episode during high-pollen season," Manalai added.
The findings might also help tease out how much of the depression associated with allergy is psychological and how much is biological. With that knowledge in hand, researchers may be able to find new therapies, Manalai said.
Manalai and his co-authors believe there is a biological underpinning to the phenomenon, though it's not clear at this point if the allergy is driving the depression or the other way around.
Certainly the findings make sense to Dr. Jordan S. Josephson, a sinus specialist with Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, author of Sinus Relief Now and a sinus sufferer himself.
"Think about it. If your allergies are acting up and you can't breathe, you're not sleeping right, you're feeling run down, you're just miserable and start getting depressed because it feels like someone has a 100-pound bag of potatoes on your back," he said. "It's not like a cold -- in two days it's gone. You're stuck with it for months and those with year-round allergies are stuck with it year-round."
Copyright © 2010 HealthDay. All rights reserved.
SOURCES: Jordan S. Josephson, sinus specialist, Lenox Hill Hospital, New York City and author, Sinus Relief Now; May 24, 2010, teleconference with Partam Manalai, M.D., department of psychiatry, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore
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