Is heart disease overlooked in schizophrenia patients?

A recent study on schizophrenia and comorbid conditions found that heart disease may be an overlooked problem in patients with psychosis.

Researchers from the Institute of Health and Wellbeing at the University of Glasgow in Scotland analyzed data from 9,677 adults with schizophrenia, comparing it to data on 1.4 million individuals without the condition. The results were surprising, showing that the schizophrenia patients had lower rates of heart disease than the control patients.

Comorbid conditions

Daniel J. Smith, lead researcher, found that the top three most common comorbid illnesses in people with schizophrenia were constipation, viral hepatitis and Parkinson's disease. The prevalence of constipation and Parkinson's disease are probably the result of medication side effects, Smith noted, and hepatitis among schizophrenics may be linked to a higher rate of drug use among people with psychosis.

And since other studies have shown that heart disease is a common comorbid condition in schizophrenics, Smith said that the absence of it in his study suggests that it may be underdiagnosed or overlooked by physicians.

One possible explanation is that people with psychosis-related conditions might assume that their physical health is being monitored along with their mental well-being, which leads them to not seek care, Smith said. Consequently, diagnoses for heart disease in schizophrenics are not being made often enough.

“This suggests a systematic under-recognition and under-treatment of cardiovascular disease in people with schizophrenia, which might contribute to substantial premature mortality observed within this patient group," he said.

Further research on primary care treatment of schizophrenia patients - and diagnoses reporting on comorbid conditions - would be helpful, Smith concluded.

Source: Good Therapy

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