Oroville Mercury-Register

Fetterman case highlights common stroke, depression link

- By Lindsey Tanner

Pennsylvan­ia Democratic Sen. John Fetterman is seeking treatment for severe depression months after having a stroke.

Here’s what’s known about the conditions.

What is a stroke?

Strokes are a leading cause of death worldwide and affect almost 800,000 Americans each year. The World Health Organizati­on estimates that about 1 in 4 people will have a stroke at some point in their lives.

Fetterman had the most common kind of stroke, caused by clots that block a blood vessel to the brain. The less common kind is due to a a burst or bleeding blood vessel.

Brain cells can begin to die within minutes. There can be one-sided paralysis and problems with speech and cognition, but quick treatment with clot-busting medication can lead to a full or partial recovery.

Fetterman, 53, had a serious stroke last May, and went on to win a highly publicized Senate race against GOP challenger Mehmet Oz. The aftereffec­ts include difficulty processing spoken conversati­on, but his doctor has said his thinking ability is intact.

What is depression?

Depression is a mood disorder that can cause intense feelings of persistent sadness, anxiety and hopelessne­ss. It is thought to impair the function of chemicals that carry messages between brain cells.

Depression affects about 16 million Americans every year, or about 1 in 6 adults globally.

Fetterman had bouts of depression before his stroke and his office announced Thursday that he had checked himself into Wal- ter Reed National Military Medical Center to treat his depression, which worsened recently.

Depression is typically treated with medication and psychother­apy. Studies have shown both can help post-stroke depression, but more research is needed to determine which antidepres­sants are most effective after strokes, according to guidance from the American Heart Associatio­n and American Stroke Associatio­n.

Is there a link between strokes and depression?

Depression occurs after a stroke in about 1 in 3 patients, said Dr. Will Cronenwett, psychiatry chief at Northweste­rn University’s Feinberg medical school.

There may be a biological reason, with some evidence suggesting that strokes might cause brain changes that lead to thinking difficulti­es affecting how people perceive the world, and that in turn could lead to depression, Cronenwett said.

Strokes can also have a psychologi­cal impact, making it hard for some people to accept that they may have new limitation­s. In some people, that adjustment can lead to depression.

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