A specific genetic variation may be linked to an increased risk for severe premenstrual depression, suggests a study by researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Known as premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), the condition affects 8 percent of women in their childbearing years. It's characterized by bouts of major depression and/or anxiety and irritability during the second half of the menstrual cycle. The symptoms usually subside with the onset of each menstrual period. The new study is the first to identify a genetic variation linked to hormonal changes during the menstrual cycle.
Until now, an explanation for the susceptibility to hormone-related mood changes has been elusive. "Our initial hope in the study was that by looking at steroid-related genes we would be able to find gene differences that might explain why some women have these mood disorders and others don't," said study author Dr. David R. Rubinow.
The study found four specific genetic variants, and compared to the control group, women with PMDD were significantly more likely to have the gene variants. "We would argue that this may explain part of the variance among women in the susceptibility to developing this mood disorder," Rubinow explained. "Studies have shown that PMDD is characterized by abnormal sensitivity to reproductive steroids like estrogen."
The authors acknowledge that as with other complex genetic disorders, the contribution to PMDD by a single gene may not be large. In addition, they also noted that the findings may be telling us more about the control group. These women, who have no history of psychiatric problems or menstrual cycle-related symptoms, may have gene variants that protect against PMDD. According to Rubinow, "this is equally interesting because it may help us to understand resilience and protection, which are also very important."
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Source: University of North Carolina School of Medicine