Corticosteroids may produce mood changes. This could account for improvement in patients with chronic airflow limitation following trials of oral corticosteroid treatment as mood elevation might improve performance in objective measurements. This proposition was tested in 21 patients with chronic airflow limitation, who underwent detailed psychological assessment during a randomised controlled double blind crossover trial of the effect of prednisolone 40 mg daily compared with that of a placebo. Self rating visual analogue scales for various qualities of mood were completed before the study and after each phase in addition to depression and psychological symptom questionnaires. After treatment with the placebo, patients showed increases in cheerfulness (p less than 0.01) and sociability (p less than 0.01) and a decrease in depression (p less than 0.01). After treatment with prednisolone there were increases in cheerfulness (p less than 0.01), optimism (p less than 0.01), activity (p less than 0.05), and sociability (p less than 0.02) and there was a decrease in depression (p less than 0.01). When placebo and prednisolone values were compared, however, there were no significant differences. Some patients showed improvements (greater than 20%) in peak expiratory flow, FEV1 or forced vital capacity (FVC) after prednisolone, but nearly all had improvements in at least one psychological test. There were no detectable associations between changes in objective measurements and changes in psychological test ratings. This study suggests that in patients with chronic obstructive lung disease significant psychological changes are no more likely to follow treatment with a corticosteroid than treatment with a placebo and that physiological improvement after corticosteroid treatment is not tied to psychological changes.
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