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Is there a link between Psychological Stress and Atopic Dermatitis?

Atopic dermatitis is much more than ‘just’ a chronic skin disease. Living with eczema can be challenging and have a significant impact on emotional life. The following article highlights the findings of recent studies pointing out the link between psychological stress and symptoms of atopic dermatitis.   

  • There is a link between psychological stress and Atopic Dermatitis! Atopic dermatitis typically begins during the first six months of life in 45% of people with atopic dermatitis, see here for more information. Symptoms may continue into adulthood. Not surprisingly, having atopic dermatitis affects the quality of life, resulting in psychological stress. Psychological stress has been shown to affect the signalling molecules within the body that is critical for the inflammatory response, which plays an important role in the severity of the symptoms.  

  • Signalling molecules affect psychological stress. The interaction between multiple signalling molecules leads to a complex process called ‘signal transduction’. The process of signal transduction is affected when people experience acute and/or prolonged psychological stress.

  • Short psychological stress improves atopic dermatitis. Studies have shown that short-term exposure to psychological stress actually improves skin conditions like atopic dermatitis by improving the signalling pathways impaired in wound healing and inflammatory response.

  • Long-term psychological stress negatively affects atopic dermatitis. In terms of prolonged/chronic psychological stress, the effects are quite different from those seen under short-term exposure. In instances of long exposure to stress, studies have shown delayed wound healing, impaired skin barrier recovery and overall decreased function of the outer skin layers.

The authors do not state an exact distinction between short- and long-term psychological stress exposure, but the findings clearly indicate the need of a more holistic view on people suffering from chronic skin conditions to better understand their underlying biology - and thereby optimizing their treatment moving forward!         

Title of publication: Association between Stress and the HPA Axis in the Atopic Dermatitis.
Date and journal: International Journal of Molecular Science, October, 2017
Link to article: Int J Mol Sci. 2017 Oct 12;18(10). pii: E2131. doi: 10.3390/ijms18102131.

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