To mark World Bipolar Day on 30 March, in this blog we are looking at the role of medication in managing bipolar disorder and asking what can be done to improve its effectiveness and reduce the risk of unwanted side-effects.
What is bipolar disorder?
Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition that produces dramatic shifts in mood and behaviour. These shifts are categorised as manic episodes (highs) and depressive episodes (lows). In a mania phase, people may experience increased energy, restlessness, irritability and problems sleeping. When someone is in a depressive phase, they might have low energy and feelings of hopelessness. Thoughts of suicide and death are common and the risk of death by suicide is greater than in the general population. Episodes of mania and depression can last anything from a few hours to several weeks.
The disorder often develops in adolescence or early adulthood, although symptoms can develop at any age. In between episodes, people may have no symptoms at all. However, bipolar disorder is often linked to other mental health conditions such as anxiety disorders and behavioural disorders like ADHD.
Medication for bipolar
Medication is successfully used in bipolar disorder to control episodes of mania and depression and to prevent a relapse once the person’s mood has stabilised. Once a doctor finds the right drug and dose, it is possible to manage the symptoms effectively, however it is not always easy to identify the correct drug or to know the right dosage to achieve relief from symptoms without unwanted side-effects. A trial and error approach has traditionally been used to find the right drug or combination of drugs.
However, genetic testing is increasingly being used to manage people with bipolar disorder. The PGX-Psychiatry genetic test enables doctors to optimise treatment decisions, eliminating the need for a trial and error approach when it comes to prescribing psychiatric medication.
By identifying the person’s unique genetic markers, the laboratory can predict with accuracy which drugs are likely to be effective and which are not. Genetic testing can also be used to show the optimum dose to achieve the desired results without unwanted side-effects.
Genetic testing is simple and quick, using an easily administered cheek swab. It analyses key genes and provides a detailed analysis of the person’s genetic profile in an easy to read report.
If you are a doctor working with patients with bipolar disorder pinpointing precisely the right drug or combination of drugs to treat individuals can be extremely beneficial. For example, with mood stabilising medication like lithium, the difference between an optimum dose and a toxic one can be very small. Information about a person’s genetics can reveal the right dose to ensure they benefit from the drug without becoming ill due to side-effects.
Genetic testing is available for clinicians to purchase for a wide range of psychiatric conditions including: schizophrenia, autism, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, ADHD, OCD, anxiety, depression, chronic pain and substance abuse.
The PGX-Psychiatry genetic test has been shown in peer-reviewed published studies to improve patient outcomes and reduce overall medical costs. Every test comes with a detailed report and complimentary pharmacogenomic consultation.
For more information about our Pharmacogenomics genetic tests, please contact the team. At this unprecedented time, ensuring patients are on the right medication and correct dosage can also help reduce GP and hospital appointments, which relieves pressure on the NHS.