Local doctors find ways to ease depression in dialysis patients


Doctors say living with chronic illness can open the door to depression. Now, two local doctors who were recently published in a national journal say they’ve found a new way to help people with the overlap.

Doctors say patients undergoing dialysis for kidney disease spend three days a week, for up to four hours at a time, connected to a machine in a clinic.

“I think the burden of depression is not only suicide, but it’s also trying to kind of meet the demands of this chronic illness,” said Dr. Mark Unruh.

Often times, doctors say the exhausting process can lead to patients suffering from depression, which can ultimately affect their treatment.

“If you’re depressed, it becomes harder to do those things. It’s harder to engage in self-care,” said Dr. Unruh.

To address that, Dr. Unruh and Dr. Davin Quinn at UNM Hospital, along with a team of doctors from across the country, studied 120 patients going through cognitive behavioral therapy or taking antidepressants for 12 weeks.

“There really have been very limited, small studies discussing that the treatment of depression is possible in this population. It’s the largest just because we included three big regions and we approached nearly 4000 patients to recruit,” said Dr. Unruh.

The study found that both cognitive behavioral therapy and drug therapy improved depression in patients. Although, doctors say the drug therapy had a slightly better outcome.

“If you were depressed, we were sort of at a loss as far as how to care for patients. This study kind of for the first time lets us know that we can do either use cognitive behavioral therapy if you have those resources, or start a very simple drug regimen for patients,” said Dr. Unruh.

Dr. Unruh says now that they’ve found that therapy is helpful, they’re currently conducting a new trial to reach patients in rural communities through what he calls “telehealth.”

“It could be someone who is Grants, Taos or Raton, as long as they have WiFi. If we are able to deliver it using an iPad, that opens things up and gives them a mechanism as a treatment of depression,” said Dr. Unruh.
Dr. Unruh says it will be a couple of years still until the results of this new trial will be out.

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