November 14, 2007

Schizophrenia and an Increased Risk for a Ruptured Appendix

Recently, we've discussed how people who suffer from mental health problems are at a higher risk for developing certain physical health problems like cardiovascular and heart disease. The reasons behind this increased risk are various and include a neglect of good lifestyle choices such as a healthy diet and exercise. In addition, many mental health patients and physicians overlook physical health ailments because so much of their focus is on suffering from and treating mental health issues, respectively. [Read More About This Here.]

Now a recent story out of Taiwan says that people with schizophrenia are also more likely, than is the rest of the population, to suffer from a ruptured appendix. A ruptured appendix results when appendicitis, a condition where the appendix (a worm or finger-shaped pouch at the beginning of the intestine) is inflamed and not treated right away. [Read More About This Here.]

The study was published in the online open access journal, BMC Public Health. Jen-Huoy Tsay and her colleagues who conducted the study at the National Yang Ming University, Taipei, Taiwan, R.O.C., compared the outcomes of appendicitis sufferers, looking specifically at patients with and without mental illness, including schizophrenia and different major mental illnesses. The team used Taiwanese National Health Insurance (NHI) hospital-discharge data and compared the likelihood of a ruptured appendix among almost 100,000 people aged 15 and over who were hospitalized for acute appendicitis in Taiwan during the period 1997-2001.

Tsay and colleagues found that a ruptured appendix occurred in 46.7 percent of the schizophrenic patients, in 43.4 percent of the patients with other major mental disorders, and in 25.1 percent of the patients with no major mental diseases. More ruptured cases were found among males and older patients. After adjusting for age, gender, ethnicity, socioeconomic background, and hospital characteristics, the team found that patients with schizophrenia were still almost three times as likely to suffer a ruptured appendix as the general population. The presence of affective psychoses or other major mental disorders did not, however, remain associated with a significantly increased risk of rupture. The findings suggest that, even though the NHI program reduces financial barriers to care for people with mentally illness, schizophrenics are still at a disadvantage in obtaining timely treatment for physical problems.

It seems important to point out that since this study hasn't yet been replicated, we don't know how generalizable these results are. Nevertheless, past research has demonstrated that people with schizophrenia or other mental illnesses are more susceptible to certain physical ailments than is the rest of the population. Thus, we can't stress enough the importance of routine physical check-ups for the mentally ill.

Full Story: Schizophrenics more likely to suffer from ruptured appendix (BMC Public Health)


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