Dr. Sander Markx was astonished to learn that a catatonic psychiatric patient he’d met as a medical student was still in the same hospital in the same unresponsive state 20 years later. April Burrell had been diagnosed with schizophrenia, and could not communicate, care for herself, or follow orders. Markx ordered a full workup on April, and test results showed she also had lupus, an autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks various body organs. Could it have attacked April’s brain? April underwent a serious regimen of chemotherapy designed to treat lupus, in which she was bombarded with medications once a month for six months. By the time her treatment was completed, she had returned to reality, reconnected with her family, and was discharged from the psychiatric hospital to a rehabilitation center.
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So did the lupus cause April’s psychiatric symptoms? A second patient was found to have both schizophrenia and lupus, and showed an even better recovery after treatment. This opens up a whole new world in possible treatments for autoimmune diseases that may have caused psychiatric illness in people who are currently consigned to lifetime care. That may be just a small fraction of schizophrenic patients, but it is a possibility well worth testing for. Read about April, the second patient Devine, and Dr. Markx’s quest to help them. -via Digg
(Image credit: NIMH)