The Allergy/Depression Connection
It’s not such a far-flung theory. Think about it: While folks without allergies are buoyantly welcoming spring - walking through gardens and lolling on the green grass - if you have allergies you’re sniffling, sneezing, dealing with itchy read eyes, trying to clear a stuffy nose and probably losing sleep. As if that’s not enough, now a wave of research suggests there may be another downside for allergy sufferers -- a higher risk of depression. In fact, several large studies have found that the risk of depression in people with severe allergies is about twice that of those without allergies.It makes sense. Severe allergies can bring sleeplessness, headaches, fatigue and a general feeling of physical depletion, all of which can make you blue. Studies have also found that allergic reactions release compounds in the body called cytokines, which play a role in inflammation and may reduce levels of the feel-good hormone serotonin. Plus, some common allergy medications, like corticosteroids, can cause anxiety and mood swings. The connection might explain a widely reported study from the University of Maryland that showed an increase in suicides during the spring every year. Analyzing medical records, the authors found that in some patients, changes in allergy symptoms during low- and high-pollen seasons corresponded to changes in their depression and anxiety scores. That’s not all; a Finnish population study also discovered a connection between allergies and depression, with one difference: Women were much more likely to be affected. Even more convincing: Large-scale population studies suggest that allergy sufferers are roughly twice as likely to have depression as people without allergies. In one such study, adults with allergic rhinitis (hay fever) were twice as likely to have been diagnosed with major depression in the previous 12 months. In another study, kids who had hay fever at age 5 or 6 were twice as likely to experience major depression over the ensuing 17 years. However, these findings are probably not that surprising. There are almost no chronic illnesses that have not been linked to depression. And allergies are an illness. Besides the physical downside of allergies, they can affect financial status. After all, allergies can be expensive. There are medications, doctors’ visits, and allergy shots. As we know, any additional financial burden can trigger feelings of depression. What’s the bottom line? Those who suffer from allergies or who have a loved one who suffers from allergies should be aware of a possible link between allergies and depression. The symptoms of depression include a loss of interest in hobbies or other activities that used to be enjoyable, weight gain or loss, problems sleeping or sleeping too much, anxiety, and of course feeling sad or irritable nearly every day. If you have these symptoms contact your physician. You might also want to consider going to a therapist or a counselor. There’s medical treatment that can help. Robin Westen is ThirdAge’s medical reporter. Check for her daily updates. See what others have to say about this story or leave a comment of your own.