Evidence-Based Reviews

Older-age bipolar disorder: A case series

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Etiology of OABD may be different

OABD may be associated with manic presentations and vascular risk factors. MRI imaging that found more white matter hyperintensities and cerebrovascular lesions in patients with OABD compared with younger patients provides evidence of possible differing etiologies.14 Cassidy and Carroll15 found a higher incidence of smoking, hypertension, diabetes mellitus, coronary heart disease, and atrial fibrillation in patients in the older onset group. Bellivier et al16 proposed 3 subgroups of bipolar I disorder; the late-onset subgroup’s etiology was multifactorial. EOBD and OABD subgroups have similar gender ratios,17 first-episode descriptions, and alcohol use rates; however, OABD subgroups have more neuro­logical comorbidity, lesser severe psychosis, and less genetic predisposition.

Although 25% of BD cases are late onset,3 there is still little consensus regarding subgroups and etiological causes. Therefore, additional research specifically focusing on vascular risks may provide much-needed information. Controlling and mitigating vascular risks in OABD may affect its development and course. Despite debated etiologies, the treatment of BD remains consistent, with anticonvulsants preferred over lithium in older individuals.18

Older-age bipolar disorder: Clinical pearls

The Table summarizes clinical pearls about the features and treatment of OABD.

Bottom Line

Compared with younger patients with bipolar disorder (BD), those who develop BD later in life may be more likely to have rapid cycling, medical comorbidities, and cognitive impairment. Older patients with BD also may be more likely to experience adverse effects of the medications commonly used to treat BD, including antipsychotics, lithium, and carbamazepine.

Related Resources

  • Carlino AR, Stinnett JL, Kim DR. New onset of bipolar disorder in late life. Psychosomatics. 2013;54(1):94-97.
  • Sajatovic M, Kales HC, Mulsant BH. Prescribing antipsychotics in geriatric patients: Focus on schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Current Psychiatry. 2017;16(10):20-26,28.

Drug Brand Names

Carbamazepine • Carbatrol, Tegretol
Carboplatin • Paraplatin
Divalproex sodium • Depakote
Doxorubicin liposome injection • Doxil
Gemcitabine injection • Gemzar
Lithium • Eskalith, Lithobid
Olanzapine • Zyprexa
Paclitaxel injection • Abraxane
Quetiapine • Seroquel

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