From the clinic #7: How stress triggers eczema
More often than not in clinic, when we ask about eczema triggers, stress gets a mention.
Stress has a bad press these days, but not all stress is bad - it is even called the spice of life. But like many things, it depends on how much stress is involved, and how easy it is to cope with it.
How does stress trigger eczema?
Possibilities include :
1. Stress increases inflammation
The common skin conditions, such as eczema, psoriasis and acne, are all inflammatory disorders. Inflammation, part of the body’s defences, is directly increased by stress.
2. Stress increases skin dryness
Topical steroids dry the skin, and should always be used with moisturisers. Stress dries the skin through the release of the body’s own steroid hormones from the adrenal glands.
3. Stress increases scratching
Scratching is a tension relieving behaviour. Habitual scratching is a direct cause of lichenification, the characteristic thickening of the skin in chronic eczema.
4. Stress increases risk of infections
When we are stressed we are more vulnerable to infections. Going down with a winter virus puts us even more “under the weather”. This increases the risk of an eczema flare-up.
5. Stress increases use of alcohol
Alcohol is nature’s tranquilliser. Those who use it tend to use more when they are stressed. And alcohol is notorious for increasing inflammation.
6. Stress increases risk of self-neglect
Stress leads to anxiety and depression, and self-neglect. When we are stressed we are less likely to look after ourselves. We can then neglect self-care, and suffer the consequences.
7. Stress increases allergic reactions
Stress does not cause allergy, but research suggests that stress increases the severity of allergic reactions.
See Stress for beginners