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Early Diagnosis Of Bipolar Disorder In Children May Be Done By A Simple Blood Test

Identifying the presence of bipolar disorder in children and teens is a challenge for most psychiatrists. Clinicians often find it hard to tell apart whether the symptoms exhibited by the children are just their typical ups and downs or secondary to stress or trauma, or an actual sign of a mental health problem.

The patterns as to how children and teens exhibit the symptoms differ much from that of adults. More rapid mood swings and episodes of mania or depression without mood symptoms are observed to occur in children with bipolar disorder. Moreover, children with bipolar disorder often have concurrent disorders such as behavior problems or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Speeding Up Diagnosis Of Bipolar Disorder In Children

A new research finds that a simple blood test may be enough to promptly and accurately diagnose bipolar disorder in children. A group of researchers from Ohio State University identified that vitamin D proteins are present at higher levels in the bloodstream of children with bipolar disorder.

The pilot study, which involved 12 children with bipolar disorder, 11 children with major depressive disorder, and 13 children without any known mood disorders, was done at the Harding Hospital at Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center. They found that the blood levels of the vitamin D binding protein were 36 percent higher in children with bipolar disorder compared with those without no known mood disorders.

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The study shows that psychiatrists and other medical practitioners can use specific biomarkers to accurately diagnose bipolar disorders in children promptly.

“Childhood bipolar disorder can be very difficult to distinguish from other disorders, especially in youth with certain types of depression,” said study lead co-author Barbara Gracious, who is also an associate professor of clinical psychiatry and nutrition at Ohio State. “Prompt diagnosis and appropriate treatment alleviates the suffering of the child and family, and can potentially lessen the risk for suicide.”

While the researchers admit that additional studies are needed to support their findings, they believe that this first step is crucial in addressing the 10-year lag time between onset and diagnosis of bipolar disorder.

The study was published online in Translational Psychiatry on March 13.

Historically, bipolar disorder is known to rarely occur in children and adolescents. However, a study done in 2014 showed a significant increase in the number of children and teens recently diagnosed. A delay in diagnosis means a delay in starting appropriate treatment modalities, which can further cause deterioration in the mental health of children. Clinicians should take extra precaution when dealing with children with bipolar disorders. They should apply a more holistic approach and include several modes of therapy including medication, behavioral therapy, and family intervention.

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