New test may diagnose bipolar disorder much sooner

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New brain imaging methods that measure blood flow could be used to help diagnose bipolar disorder in its earlier stages. These same tests may be able to help differentiate it from depression as well.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, about 5.7 million adults in the United States have bipolar disorder.

New method is 81 percent accurate

The study, conducted at the University of Pittsburgh, stated that researchers had analyzed 44 females. One-third of them had bipolar, one-third had unipolar and one-third was the control group with neither condition.

Using a new imaging method called “Arterial Spin Labeling,” the researchers measured the participants’ blood flow to monitor the brain regions linked to depression. With 81 percent accuracy, the new imaging method was able to determine which women suffered from bipolar and which had been diagnosed with unipolar depression.

Early diagnosis makes a huge difference

Bipolar is notoriously hard to diagnose. Symptoms such as mood change and lethargy or indifference can routinely be diagnosed as something else. One-fifth of all people with bipolar disorder are incorrectly diagnosed when first assessed by a mental health professional. It can take as long as 10 years before an accurate diagnosis can be made and subsequent treatment begun.

“Earlier and more accurate diagnoses can make an enormous difference for patients and their families, and may even save lives,” said Dr. Jorge Almeida, assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh. “This is a very promising finding that highlights the usefulness of neuroimaging to help identify biological markers associated with different mental health conditions.”

“These results also suggest that we may one day be able to predict future bipolar behavior in younger adults who haven’t shown any symptoms, allowing for earlier and more accurate treatment,” said Almeida.

Source: MedicalNewsToday, British Journal of Psychiatry

 
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