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That's especially true for women, the researchers said.
"This is the first study to document how depressive symptoms may complicate PAD recovery even among patients receiving specialty care," said senior author Kim Smolderen. She's co-director of the Vascular Medicine Outcomes Research Program at Yale University School of Medicine in New Haven, Conn.
PAD is a narrowing of the peripheral arteries in the legs, stomach, arms and head. It increases a patient's risk of death and illness from heart disease. It can cause severe pain while walking and may affect mobility, functioning, overall health and quality of life.
For a year, the researchers followed more than 1,200 patients who were being treated for PAD at vascular clinics in the United States, the Netherlands and Australia.
Among the study group, 21% of women and 13% of men said they had depressive symptoms. Those patients had worse health than those who did not report such symptoms, according to the report.
One in five women with a new PAD diagnosis or worsening PAD symptoms had clinically relevant depression symptoms after a year -- about two times higher than men. Women also had poorer health outcomes, which are partially explained by their depressive symptoms, the researchers said.
According to study first author Dr. Qurat-Ul-Ain Jelani, a clinical fellow at Yale School of Medicine, "A major goal of PAD treatment is improving patients' health status and quality of life. Not recognizing or treating depressive symptoms may stand in the way of realizing optimal recovery."
Smolderen added that "PAD is more than treating the legs and the corresponding pain. We need awareness for the patient as a whole in order to provide patient-centric care."
The report was published online Aug. 12 in the Journal of the American Heart Association.
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