Does stress have the potential of affecting skin or potentially allow you to susceptible to Allergy symptoms?
Many allergic people notice that their skin disorders worsen during stress. Confirming these observations was a Japanese survey that measured cases of atopic dermatitis following the Great Hanshin Earthquake in Kobe, Japan, in 1995.
In this survey, 1,457 people with atopic dermatitis were divided into three geographic groups—area A, an area that experienced severe damage during the earthquake; area B, mild damage; and the control area, no damage.Researchers found that 38% of area A and 34% of area B patients suffered flare-ups of their symptoms following the earthquake, while only 7% of the control group experienced exacerbation of their skin condition.
Sixty-three percent of area A patients and 48% of area B patients reported suffering from stress due to the earthquake, while only 19% of the controls did.
The researchers concluded that the stress directly exacerbated atopic dermatitis symptoms in a significant number of the population affected by the quake.”
How does stress wreak such havoc on the skin? Scientists have discovered that stress is associated with an increased number and activation of mast cells, which release vasoactive (dilating) and pro-inflammatory mediators.’
However, it appears that cortisol is released in lower amounts or somehow blunted in patients with skin allergy.
For example, in a 1997 study, 15 children with atopic dermatitis and 15 controls were assigned to perform stressful tasks, consisting mainly of public speaking and mental arithmetic tasks in front of an audience.”
The subjects with eczema were in remission and off medication for at least three weeks. Researchers tested salivary cortisol release and heart rates of all children to measure their stress response to these tasks.All subjects showed high levels of stress; however, the children with atopic dermatitis showed a significantly blunted cortisol response compared to that of the controls.
The researchers did not follow up to see whether the children experienced eczema flare-ups, but the cortisol response indicated that atopic children may have an under functioning endocrine system.
Researchers hypothesized that the endocrine system plays a regulatory role in immune function, and endocrine dysfunction could explain why atopic individuals experience stress-induced flare-ups of symptoms.
It appears that skin allergies may also occur due to a stress-triggered redistribution of leukocytes, immune cells involved in allergic reactions.
Recent Study Regarding Acute Stress
A recent study found that acute stress induces a large-magnitude, rapid, and reversible dispersal of leukocytes from the blood (where they normally circulate) to other areas of the body. This change in leukocyte distribution is mediated by adrenal stress hormones. The skin is one of the target organs of this redistribution of leukocytes, perhaps in anticipation of physical injury. Experiments show that acute stress significantly enhances delayed (cell-mediated) skin reactions.’