Psychiatrists can now confirm Schizophrenia diagnosis with lab markers
Posted Jul 16 2012 5:28pm
Psychiatrists usually diagnose Schizophrenic patients with symptoms such as delusions, hallucinations, and unorganized thinking and speech. With only these behaviors to rely on, most physicians find it hard to diagnose – and consequently, treat Schizophrenia.
But now, experts from the University of California – San Diego School of Medicine have discovered a set of laboratory markers – known as endophenotypes - which can detect the brain problems associated with Schizophrenia.
What is Schizophrenia?
Schizophrenia, which is characterized by abnormal behavior and thought processes, occurs in 3 million Americans. Patients suffering from this illness can be a threat to himself, and to others because most of the time, they can’t perceive what’s real from what are hallucinations and delusions. For these reasons Schizophrenia is viewed a severe and incapacitating condition.
What causes Schizophrenia remains unknown to physicians, although genetics plays a key role in the succession of the illness. Doctors diagnose this condition when the patient tells him what he thinks, sees, hears, or feels. Even the most-seasoned Psychiatrists find it difficult to diagnose Schizophrenia because most symptoms are subjective.
This challenge prodded Dr. Gregory Light, head author of the study, to look for precise neurocognitive and neurophysical biomarkers which can determine brain dysfunction which was associated to Schizophrenia.
In the study, Light and his associates placed scalp sensors on the heads of 550 patients to see the brain’s response to sounds. The biomarkers used to check the memory and attention of the patient, as well as his basic perceptual means.
200 of the subjects were retested after a year, and results have shown that the biomarkers remain deranged. The markers were stable, and did not change with each participant.
Before these markers were discovered, doctors diagnosed patients with mental assessment and other laboratory examinations such as the checking for the deficiency of Vitamin B6 and Zinc in urine (urine kryptopyrroles or pyroluria,) detection of serum ceruloplasmin and serum copper in blood, analysis of minerals in hair, abnormalities in essential fatty acids in blood, detection of heavy metals in urine, analysis of microbial ecology in the gastrointestinal system, and testing for organic acid.
Unfortunately, these exams only point out to a presence of a mental disorder, and cannot help with the accurate diagnosis of Schizophrenia.
Another new diagnostic tool which can help physicians apart from these markers is looking for the presence of retroviruses in cerebrospinal fluid. Some cases of Schizophrenia are attributed to the presence of retroviruses.
Because of the success of the study, Light and his colleagues suggest that more studies should be conducted in order to determine if other markers can be used to diagnose other psychiatric disorders. Such markers can also be checked in people who have a high tendency of developing mental illnesses. These markers can also be used to determine a patient’s response to different courses of treatments.
With the developments in science such as this one, physicians can now diagnose and treat psychiatric illnesses with confidence. And with accurate diagnoses, patients can receive the treatments they need right away.