Sector News — 01 April 2014

A STROKE can kill part of the brain and make a person appear drunk in public, but doctors lack knowledge about how to treat widespread misery among survivors.

Depression, anxiety and apathy are common after a stroke, says Australian researcher Maree Hackett, leader of an international study.

“There is an unmet need for mental health treatment for these people.”

Part of the problem is that post-stroke problems such as loss of speech and cognitive impairment can hamper diagnosis, says Professor Hackett of The George Institute for Global Health and the University of Sydney.

About 50,000 Australians every year have a stroke. Half are younger than 73. There are millions of survivors around the world.

About three in 10 experience mental health issues, according to Professor Hackett’s study, which is published in the journal The Lancet Neurology.bigstockphoto_Severe_Depression_3067531

It highlights a problem that causes a lot of misery, says Richard Lindley, who was not involved in the study.

“We have not yet got a very good repertoire of interventions that can make a difference,” he says.

“The article is a call to arms. We need to invest in some pretty serious research.”

A stroke can be devastating, especially to people who lose their mobility, says Professor Lindley, a senior researcher at The George Institute and professor of geriatric medicine at the University of Sydney.

“What can appear to be a minor stroke to the doctor can be devastating to the patient.

“They can look abnormal to other people. Some people who have an unsteadiness tell me they keep on being accused of being drunk.”

Part of a person’s depression could be a natural reaction to a major life event.

But doctors need a better understanding about what happens to the brain.

“There could be a more complicated biological basis because the brain is affected and some of it has died.”

People should not keep quiet about how they are feeling, says Professor Lindley, who chairs the National Stroke Foundation Clinical Council.

“Talk to your family and doctors. There are things we can do.”

This article first appeared on ‘The Australian’ on 31 March 2014.


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