The essence of early diagnosis of schizophrenia


Early diagnosis of schizophrenia (its exacerbation) and early start of treatment are very important for several reasons. These are the reasons:

1. Each relapse of psychosis, especially the prodromal period (before the first outbreak of schizophrenia) is toxic to the brain – we now have evidence that the outbreak of psychosis is devastating for some neurons. By early intervention, we protect a part of neurons from destruction.

3. Early start of treatment reduces the risk of relapse and enables the patient to live normal life. The later the treatment starts, the greater the risk of relapse of schizophrenia. This is especially significant in case of the first episode of schizophrenia – the longer time passes from the first, even non-specific symptoms of schizophrenia, the worse is the prognosis.

5. It is very important to recognise addictions, which accompany schizophrenia in some patients – alcohol or drug addictions. Approximately one third of patients with schizophrenia (in some countries, up to half of the patients) have problems related to alcohol and substance abuse. Early diagnosis of addiction, which accompanies schizophrenia, will permit to start early adjunctive treatment. Concomitance of addictions can be, and almost always is, the factor contributing to relapse of schizophrenia.

2. Medications quickly reduce the severity of symptoms of schizophrenia, in particular, the positive ones, which cause its exacerbation. In early disease stages, within one or one and a half months, symptoms are reduced to the level allowing the patient to return to everyday activities – in this way, early treatment reduces the period of hospitalization. 4. Proper diagnosis and properly matched medications protect the patient from the risk of taking improper medications – such medications do not bring improvement (for example, drugs from the group of benzodiazepines) and may facilitate further development of schizophrenia.

6. Early and then regular treatment reduces the risk that the patient will commit suicide. With the disappearance of symptoms in the course of treatment of schizophrenia the risk of suicide, which can apply even to one in ten patients, is reduced. Such a risk is the highest in the period of exacerbation and during the first or one of the first episodes of schizophrenia.

Early diagnosis and early treatment allow patients to recover quickly but also to return to their families, friends, work, school, i.e. to normality.

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