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Asthma and Depression: Can Asthma Drugs Really Cause Mental Health Issues?

asthma and mental health

A close relationship between asthma and mental health disorders was acknowledged more than a 100 years ago. Modern studies with vast statistical data confirm higher rates of mental disorders among asthmatic patients. Stress, anxiety and depression can exacerbate asthmatic symptoms; as the condition worsens, mental health issues arise easily as a result. Even more, a recent study suggests that popular asthma drugs have negative side effects on mental health by causing depression, aggression, nightmares, and headaches. Is it time to give up certain asthma medications? And what is the best way to avoid mental health issues for asthma patients?

What is in the news

The possibility of depression and other mental disorders caused by asthma medications is now widely discussed. Most asthma drugs contain hormones, which are known to affect mental state in some people, causing irritation, mood swings, anxiety, and so on. Such effects are quite common when using popular anti-inflammatory inhalers and tablets to treat asthma.

Recent studies have added even more fuel to the discussion. Dutch researchers assume that montelukast, a popular asthma medicine known as Singulair, can cause mental problems such as depression, aggression, and nightmares. Scientists have investigated the effect of montelukast, which is one of the most popular drugs for asthma, on mental health and immune system. As a result, it was found that the drug causes nightmares, leads to depressive episodes and can cause psychological abnormalities in children. In addition, there may be a link between the use of montelukast and the development of Chardzh-Stross syndrome, a rare autoimmune disease characterized by inflammation of small blood vessels in the respiratory system. However, Singulair and other montelukast drugs most likely won’t disappear from the drugstores. Do not rush to throw away your Singulair supplies, as it still remains one of your best choices for effective asthma control.

Asthma and depression explained

Asthma is a chronic disease which affects around 100 million people worldwide. Patients with asthma are also twice as likely as others to suffer from depression and anxiety.

Depression, normally accompanied by a feeling of sadness and helplessness, is the most commonly diagnosed mental disorder. The World Health Organization compares depression with an epidemic that has engulfed all of humanity. Many people with chronic illnesses such as heart disease and diabetes suffer from depression. People with asthma, being unable to breathe normally, may constantly live in a state of mental tension, which leads to depression and, as a result, aggravates the disease.

Asthma and mental disorders in numbers

Asthmatic patients often (41%) have anxiety and depressive disorders. In patients with bronchial asthma, stress disorders are diagnosed 1.5 times more often, which may be associated with the psychogenic effect of the disease, which leads to suffering and restrictions on everyday activities. On the other hand, stress greatly increases the risk of asthma exacerbation.

The presence of asthma is a risk factor for the development of anxiety disorders. In patients hospitalized with asthma exacerbation, the level of anxiety is higher, especially in severe illness. Severe asthma is associated with a 2.7-fold increase in the frequency of anxiety disorders, including panic disorder by 4.6 times, and specific phobias by 4.8 times, respectively. Depression occurs in 22-28% of asthmatic patients.

Proper asthma control helps to prevent depression

Lack of asthma treatment seriously limits normal daily activities, which can lead to social isolation and deep depression. Therefore, proper asthma control is vitally important to prevent mental health issues. Recent studies have found that asthma, in particular, increases the chance of postpartum depression since expectant mothers often stop taking their asthma medication in order to protect the child. As a result, the disease gets out of control, stress, anxiety, and chances of depression increase.

Depressed patients are less committed to treatment and tend to miss medication. This is due to the deterioration of cognitive functions, lack of motivation, feelings of hopelessness and social exclusion. In this case, the doctor may prescribe antidepressant treatment, which, according to research, improves the course of asthma, reduces the need for corticosteroids and even the mortality rate. Psychotherapy was also found to improve the life quality of asthmatic patients.

Side effects indicated for some asthma medications can sound threatening, however, severe side effects are very rare, and lack of proper asthma control can cause a more serious damage to your health.

Remember that montelukast (Singular) is:

  • a highly effective drug for asthma control;
  • easy to use, especially in children;
  • can be used as a first-line treatment for bronchial asthma;
  • is often the best alternative to other treatments;
  • in general, has an excellent safety profile;
  • rapidly absorbed in the body.

Choose drugs that ensure best asthma control and follow these recommendations carefully in order to avoid risks related to mental health.

How to prevent depression in the treatment of asthma

Experts suggest that you follow the nine preventive steps that will help optimize breathing and preserve your mental health:

  1. Visit your doctor regularly. The doctor will do a breath test to assess whether there is a worsening and what further treatment you need.
  2. If the prescribed drugs do not work, tell your doctor about it as soon as possible.
  3. If asthma symptoms appear on the background of an emotional disorder, talk to your doctor about depressive symptoms or other mood changes.
  4. Make sure you use your inhaler correctly. The medicine should go into the lungs, and not settle in the mouth or on throat.
  5. Ask about the side effects of asthma medications. Tablets can cause mood swings. The doctor will tell you how to deal with such side effects or adjust the course of treatment.
  6. If you are prescribed antidepressants, use the drug as directed by your doctor. Inform the doctor if the drug is ineffective. Your physician will help to choose the one that is optimal.
  7. Spend more time on physical activity. Exercise is good for the body and improves mood.
  8. Communicate more. Let your friends support you. Friends can convince you to be more attentive to your health and not forget to take medication.
  9. Consult a psychologist to learn how to block negative thoughts and cultivate positive mental attitudes.

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