An activated immune system due to an infection during pregnancy may cause critical cognitive impairment linked to schizophrenia in the newborn, suggests a recent study by researchers at the University of Otago, New Zealand. According to the researchers, schizophrenia is possibly an outcome of an interaction between genetic and environmental “hits.” The combination of these hits over time may lead to development of the mental disorder.
“One environmental hit that has been shown to be a significant risk factor is activation of the maternal immune system, likely caused by illness during pregnancy,’’ said lead author Dr. Ryan Ward from the Department of Psychology, University of Otago.
Published in the scientific journal PLOS One in November 2017, the study found that the infection-induced activation of the maternal immune system in rats may lead to an impaired timing, which, in turn, is likely to produce symptoms and impairments related to schizophrenia.
According to authors, it is the first study to have established an association between maternal immune system activation and timing impairments. Considering the significance of the findings, extra care needs to be taken during pregnancy as any illness during this period may have adverse effects on the mental health of the offspring. Mothers with a family history of mental illness should take extra caution and should talk to their gynecologists about preventive measures. The researchers felt that the study is expected to bring significant improvements in the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of schizophrenia.
Schizophrenia in numbers in US
According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), over 1 percent adults in the United States have a 12-month prevalence of schizophrenia, which is a disabling chronic mental disorder. People with schizophrenia may experience delusions, hallucinations and thought disorders. They may also hear voices that others do not. Schizophrenia patients may also feel as if others are trying to read their minds, control their thoughts, or harm them. Though schizophrenia is known to run in families, many patients with the condition do not have a family history of the disorder.
A person with schizophrenia may be vulnerable to other mental disorders like anxiety, depression and substance use. Schizophrenia is also associated with marijuana and nicotine use in some people. People with schizophrenia may have increased risk of suicide. An Ethiopia-based study, published in the BMC psychiatry, suggested that the cumulative risk of suicide attempt was 13.1 percent for schizophrenia.
According to the Schizophrenia and Related Disorders Alliance of America (SARDAA), 25 percent people with schizophrenia recover completely. While 50 percent of people struggling with schizophrenia improved over a 10-year period, 25 percent failed to get better over time. Surprisingly, nearly 50 percent of people diagnosed with schizophrenia did not get any treatment.
Schizophrenia is treatable if it is diagnosed in time. Treatment would help improve symptoms. Psychiatrists, primary health care doctors, social workers as well as families of the patients should work together to support treatment and decrease recovery time. Many people with schizophrenia have recovered to a point where they are living functional and rewarding social lives. When it comes to prognosis, the amount of time between the appearance of symptoms and diagnosis, and subsequent treatment is crucial for patients of schizophrenia. Sooner the treatment, earlier the recovery.
Sovereign Health is one of the leading schizophrenia treatment centers in California. Our mental health rehabilitation facilities offer evidence-based schizophrenia treatment in California to help people with the disorder live a better life. Call at our 24/7 helpline number 866-973-7164 or chat online with a representative to know about our credible mental health facilities in California.