Stress Worsens Skin Woes

Stress Worsens Skin Woes Stress Worsens Skin Woes

Increased psychological stress can exacerbate certain skin complaints but not pimples, according to a study of students published in Acta Dermato-Venereologica.

College can be a time of increased psychological stress, especially given the complex social, academic and financial pressures faced by today’s students.

Previous studies have suggested a link between stress and skin symptoms, but those studies were limited by small patient samples and not by using standardized tools.

They also tended to be anecdotal in nature, or focused on a single skin disease, according to Dr. Gil Yosipovitch, chair of the department of dermatology at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University (LKSOM) and director of the Temple Itch Center, reports Medical News Today.

Researchers at LKSOM and Temple aimed to assess the relationship between perceived psychological stress and the prevalence of various skin symptoms in a large, randomly selected sample of undergraduate students.

The cross-sectional study was carried out at Temple University during the 2014 fall semester. A total of 5,000 undergraduate students were invited to complete a web-based questionnaire in which they reported their perceived psychological stress and any skin complaints.

The final sample size was 422 students, who were then divided into three groups: low stress, moderate stress and high stress.

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Students who reported high stress levels suffered significantly more often from pruritus (itchy skin); alopecia (hair loss); oily, waxy or flaky patches on the scalp; hyperhidrosis (troublesome sweating); scaly skin; onychophagia (nail biting); itchy rash on hands; and trichotillomania (hair pulling).

There was no significant association between perceived psychological stress levels and the presence of pimples, dry/sore rash, warts and other rashes on the face.

The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) says that alopecia is usually caused by hereditary factors but can be caused by a number of environmental factors, including lack of nutrients and certain medications - including some used for depression and hormonal imbalance.

According to the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), pruritis is an umbrella term for a number of dermatologic conditions, including some types of eczema and dermatitis. It is associated with histamine, which is released during an allergic response, but it can reflect an underlying systemic disease. It is often exacerbated by skin inflammation, dry or hot conditions, skin vasodilation and psychologic stressors. Yosipovitch says: “Our findings highlight the need for health care/dermatology providers to ask these patients about their perceived levels of psychological stress.”