Women and bipolar disorder across the life span.

University of Pittsburgh, Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, USA.
Journal of the American Medical Women's Association (1972) 02/2004; 59(2):91-100.
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Bipolar I disorder occurs in approximately 1% of the adult population, and it affects women and men equally. Women develop bipolar II disorder, bipolar depression, mixed mania, and a rapid-cycling course of illness more commonly than men and are at greater risk of such comorbid conditions as alcohol use problems, thyroid disease, medication-induced obesity, and migraine headaches. The treatment of bipolar disorder remains challenging. Although lithium reduces symptoms and prevents recurrence with good efficacy, a significant number of patients stop taking it. Furthermore, several anticonvulsants and antidepressants are prescribed off label for acute episodes and prophylaxis despite the lack of adequate research support. Psychotherapy may alleviate mania or depression and improve treatment compliance, yet its ability to prevent relapse remains uncertain. Changes throughout the reproductive cycle also have an impact on the onset and presentation of bipolar symptoms and the choice of treatment. This article provides an overview of common presentations and comorbidities, along with approaches to evaluation and treatment of women with bipolar disorder.

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    ABSTRACT: Thyroid hormones play a critical role in the functioning of the adult brain, and thyroid diseases impair both mood and cognition. This paper reviews gender differences in thyroid system function that are relevant to the diagnosis and treatment of bipolar disorder. The study comprised a comprehensive literature review of gender differences in thyroid disease that are pertinent to mood disorders. The prevalence of thyroid disease was found to be much higher in females than males, and to increase with age. The most commonly detected abnormality was subclinical hypothyroidism, which was found to occur in up to 20% of postmenopausal women. Females also had higher rates of thyroid autoimmunity. Individuals at risk for thyroid disease, such as adult females, may have had less ability to compensate for additional challenges to thyroid metabolism, including lithium treatment. Thyroid abnormalities were associated with a poorer response to standard treatments for mood disorders. Females with treatment-resistant mood disorders may have responded better than males to adjunctive therapy with thyroid hormones. Disturbances of thyroid system function, which occur commonly in females, may complicate the diagnosis and treatment of mood disorders. In particular, this is clinically relevant during lithium treatment because lithium may impair vital thyroid metabolic pathways secondary to its anti-thyroid activity.
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    ABSTRACT: The increased standardized mortality ratio (SMR) from cardiovascular disease (CVD) in women with bipolar disorder (BD), relative to men with BD and individuals of both sexes in the general population, provides the impetus to identify factors that contribute to the differential association of obesity with BD in women. We conducted a selective PubMed search of English-language articles published from September 1990 to June 2012. The key search terms were bipolar disorder and metabolic syndrome cross-referenced with gender, sex, obesity, diabetes mellitus, hypertension, and dyslipidemia. The search was supplemented with a manual review of relevant article reference lists. Articles selected for review were based on author consensus, the use of a standardized experimental procedure, validated assessment measures, and overall manuscript quality. It is amply documented that adults with BD are affected by the metabolic syndrome at a rate higher than the general population. Women with BD, when compared to men with BD and individuals of both sexes in the general population, have higher rates of abdominal obesity. The course and clinical presentation of BD manifest differently in men and women, wherein women exhibit a higher frequency of depression predominant illness, a later onset of BD, more seasonal variations in mood disturbance, and increased susceptibility to relapse. Phenomenological factors can be expanded to include differences in patterns of comorbidity between the sexes among patients with BD. Other factors that contribute to the increased risk for abdominal obesity in female individuals with BD include reproductive life events, anamnestic (e.g., sexual and/or physical abuse), lifestyle, and iatrogenic. A confluence of factors broadly categorized as broad- and sex-based subserve the increased rate of obesity in women with BD. It remains a testable hypothesis that the increased abdominal obesity in women with BD mediates the increased SMR from CVD. A clinical recommendation that emerges from this review is amplified attention to the appearance, or history, of factors that conspire to increase obesity in female patients with BD.
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    ABSTRACT: Previous studies have provided evidence of subtle thyroid hormone metabolism abnormalities in patients with mood disorders. Although these studies are informative, the precise role of the hypothalamic-pituitary-thyroid axis in bipolar disorder, especially in women, remains unclear. We sought to further corroborate thyroid function in patients with bipolar disorder in comparison to patients with other psychiatric, as well as non-psychiatric, diagnoses. In this retrospective, cross-sectional, naturalistic study, serum thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) levels in a total sample of 3,204 patients were compared. The study sample included patients with bipolar disorder (n = 469), unipolar depression (n = 615), and other psychiatric diagnoses (n = 999), patients from endocrinology clinics (n = 645), and patients from dermatology clinics (n = 476). Analyses were completed using two different normal ranges for TDH: a high normal range (0.4-5.0 μIU/mL) and a low normal range (0.3-3.0 μIU/mL). Patients with bipolar disorder showed significantly higher serum TSH levels compared to all other groups. In women, the rate of above normal range TSH was highest in patients with bipolar disorder for both high (5.0 μIU/mL; 12.1%) and low (3.0 μIU/mL; 30.4%) upper normal limits. In patients with bipolar disorder, serum TSH levels did not differ significantly between different mood states. In the lithium-treated patients (n = 240), a significantly lower percentage of women (55.9%) compared to men (71.2%) fell within the 0.3-3.0 μIU/mL normal TSH window (p = 0.016). For the high normal range (0.4-5.0 μIU/mL), serum lithium levels above 0.8 mmol/L were associated with a significantly lower proportion of female patients (59.2%) falling within the normal range than male patients (88.9%). Non-lithium treatment was not associated with a gender difference. Our findings show a higher rate of TSH abnormality in patients with bipolar disorder, particularly those taking lithium, compared to those with other psychiatric and medical conditions. Lithium-associated thyroid dysregulation occurs more frequently in female patients. Using the low normal range TSH values at follow-up can increase sensitivity in recognizing hyperthyroidism in lithium-treated female patients, and help in preventing the development of subclinical hypothyroidism and an adverse course of illness.
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