Indrė Kotryna Pakutkaitė1, Edgaras Dlugauskas4, Viktorija Norkūnienė2, Algirdas Utkus2,3, Alvydas Navickas4
1Vilnius University Medical Faculty, Vilnius, Lithuania
2Vilnius University Hospital Santariskiu Clinics, Medical Genetics Centre, Vilnius, Lithuania
3Vilnius University Medical Faculty Department of Human and Medical Genetics , Vilnius, Lithuania
4Vilnius University Medical Faculty Psychiatric Clinic, Vilnius, Lithuania
Background: Depression is one of the most common psychiatric disturbances in Huntington disease (HD) affecting more than 40% of individuals at some point during their illness. It also contributes to significant morbidity and high risk of suicide. Identification and treatment of this condition is an essential part of clinical management in HD population.
Aim of the study: To assess depression and anxiety rates of individuals undergoing HD genetic testing and compare them with the general population.
Methods: The study involved a sample group of 33 individuals referred to Huntington Disease Coordinating Center at Vilnius University Hospital Santariskiu Clinics for genetic testing for HD mutation, and a control group of 42 individuals from the general population. The sample group was surveyed about previous depression episodes and undergone psychiatric examination. Both groups were assessed for depressive and anxiety symptoms using Beck Hopelessness Scale (BHS) and Hospital Depression and Anxiety Scale (HDAS). Student’s t test for two independent samples was applied.
Results: 20 of 33 individuals were confirmed HD gene-positive. 3 of 20 gene-positive individuals met depression criteria and were diagnosed with depression after HD testing. Also, 10 of 20 gene-positive individuals had been diagnosed with depression and had started antidepressants before the survey. Gene-positive individuals scored significantly higher than the control group in HADS depression (5.9 vs. 3.38, p ≤0.05) and anxiety (8 vs. 5.5, p ≤0.05) subscales. Gene–positive individuals scored significantly higher than gene-negative individuals on the depression subscale (5.9 vs. 2, p <=0.05). Neither gene-positive individuals nor the control group scored high on BDS and no significant difference between these scores was found.
Conclusions: More than half of HD gene-positive individuals are diagnosed with depression. The prevalence of depressive symptoms is higher for gene-positive than for gene-negative individuals and the general population. Anxiety symptoms are more common among gene-positive individuals.