Researchers from the United Kingdom have found the strongest evidence to date, which links autoimmune disorders with psychotic conditions such as schizophrenia.
Performing a meta-analysis of 30 studies that comprised data from more than 25 million individuals worldwide, the team from King’s College London discovered that psychosis was more common in people with autoimmune conditions.
Details Of The Study
The first analysis excluded data on people who are suffering from rheumatoid arthritis since the negative link between it and psychosis has been previously established. Here, autoimmune disorder patients have 40 percent greater risk of having a psychotic disorder.
In the second analysis, the team looked at individual autoimmune conditions and concluded that the risk of psychosis is higher in those suffering from psoriasis, celiac disease, and pernicious anemia, to name a few. The risk is lower for those with rheumatoid arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis.
“The finding that psychosis is associated with non-neurological autoimmune disorders, which are not known to directly target the brain, is particularly important,” said lead researcher Dr. Alexis Cullen said in a statement.
What Drives The Increased Risk?
It remains unclear what drives the relationship, but inflammation emerges as a strong factor. Elevated levels of inflammatory markers in the blood, for instance, have been detected in psychosis patients. Inflammation is also a known hallmark of autoimmune disorders.
“However, other factors such as shared genes, auto-antibodies targeting brain proteins, and infectious agents might also play a role,” added Dr. Cullen.
The team recommended carefully monitoring autoimmune disorder patients for early signs of psychosis, and to conduct an early intervention for improved clinical outcomes.
Previous research already explored the relationship between the two, but often with conflicting results. In the 1950s, rheumatoid arthritis appeared to be less common in people with psychosis than the general population.
However, later studies saw that autoimmune disorder patients were indeed more likely to fall ill with psychosis.
The findings were published in the journal Biological Psychiatry.
An earlier study linked stress to 36 percent greater risk of developing 41 autoimmune disorders, from rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, to Crohn’s disease.
It wasn’t the first time that intense stress came up as a source of disease. Many studies previously linked stress conditions and adverse childhood events such as trauma and neglect to medical problems in the future.
Two or more traumatic events in childhood, for one, can double the risk of developing the rheumatic disease compared to not experiencing childhood trauma.