An Australian psychiatrist has discovered that treating patients with oestrogen can reduce the symptoms like delusions and halucinations. Although antipsychotic drugs like risperidone have been shown to help many people still suffer these.
But researchers have suspected for some time that oestrogen can help protect against schizophrenia, because women suffer a milder version of the disease than men and it usually strikes them later in life. Studies in animals also suggest that oestrogen alters the activity of dopamine and serotonin, two brain chemicals which are disrupted in schizophrenia.
Dr Jayashri Kulkarni, a psychiatrist at the Duandenong Psychiatry Research Centre, in Melbourne, treated 12 schizophrenic women with both oestrogen skin patches and risperidone for a month. She compared her results with a control group of 16 women just receiving risperidone and found those taking oestrogen as well had fewer symptoms.
"Several patients in the oestrogen group went from having terrible voices and hallucinations to that subsiding over a few days."That was very striking. With antipsychotic drugs you may get an initial sedative effect, but you are usually waiting for seven days or more for the full effect," she said.