Can Stress Cause Eczema
Evidence for the link between eczema and stress
Eczema and stress: a vicious circle
Stress management techniques linked to eczema improvement
Don’t Be Afraid To Seek Medical Help
Skin problems often go hand in a hand with shame and stigma, especially because these are conditions that are immediately visible. An open relationship with your doctor is the first step to battle the condition and the stress that goes with it. This includes going to see a doctor for the actual condition, but also a mental health professional if the burden of skin problems becomes too much.
“I would advise all patients to be more open in communicating with their doctor. It is also important to understand that there is not always a ‘cure’ and that recovery of dermatological symptoms can take time to improve. I would also suggest patients enquire about mental health services. Unfortunately, they may have to be patient due to a lack of services and to high demand,” Oates points out.
Eczema Treatments And Covid
Some people with eczema take systemic treatments that affect the immune system. Examples of these medications include prednisone, cyclosporine, methotrexate, Imuran , and Cellcept .
When taking systemic medication, it is advised that you avoid live vaccines. None of the COVID-19 vaccines authorized for use in the United States contain a live virus. Therefore, if you are taking a treatment that affects the immune system, it is advised that you can safely receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
Even though it is considered safe to have the COVID-19 vaccine, clinicians advise they still do not know whether being on an immunosuppressant or biologic treatment will reduce the vaccine’s effectiveness. Research is still ongoing in this area.
If you take immunosuppressants, systemic, or biologic medication for your eczema and are concerned about whether you are more at risk from COVID-19, then speak to your healthcare professional for support and advice.
Some clinicians advocate taking extra safety precautions to reduce the risk of contracting COVID-19 if you are on multiple medications or have additional underlying health conditions.
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The Link Between Eczema And Stress
Dr. Mark Levenberg, FAAD, a Board-certified dermatologist, and Medical Director, US Medical Affairs, at Pfizer advises that “stress has been shown to have a scientific link, through a variety of mechanisms, to impact our immune system and skin barrier, which may contribute as an exacerbating factor to eczema.”
When you encounter a stressful situation, the body has a physiological reaction, often referred to as the ‘fight or flight’ response. Originally a survival mechanism, it can lead to the body reacting to every day stress such as work pressures or family problems. During this physiological response, stress hormones, like cortisol, are released. When released in large amounts , cortisol suppresses the immune system and increases inflammation throughout the body. This increase in inflammation extends to the skin worsening eczema symptoms.
Dr. Levenberg goes on to discuss the vicious cycle that stressors can cause. “Stressors are likely to affect our health in general, and skin in particular, in a variety of different ways. Different types of stressors can lead to other kinds of stress, as well. For example, eczema’s hallmark symptom is the itch, which may cause an individual to have difficulty sleeping, which could also contribute to anxiety, creating a vicious cycle of multiple stressors on a patient.”
Show Your Skin Some Love
Sometimes your skin just needs a little extra TLC. Heres how to pamper your eczema-prone skin like a pro:
- Moisturize. Stick to lotions and creams that were designed with sensitive skin in mind. Be sure to moisturize at least twice a day, even if you dont currently have an outbreak.
- Take shorter showers. Long-term exposure to hot water can dry out your skin. So stick to short, cool showers or baths.
- Dry gently. After you shower, pat yourself dry with a clean, soft towel.
- Ditch the chemicals. Opt for hypoallergenic makeup and mild soaps to reduce your risk of a reaction.
- Talk with an expert. Its essential to see your dermatologist regularly. They may recommend treatments like topical steroids, immunomodulators, phototherapy, biologics, or systemic immunosuppressants.
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How To Stay Safe
The best way to stay safe with eczema during the pandemic is to follow public health guidance to lower the risk of catching COVID-19:
- Continue your eczema medication as prescribed.
- Take steps to avoid and manage flares during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Support your health by reviewing eczema care basics.
- Take steps to reduce stress, manage itching, and improve your sleep hygiene.
- Wash your hands regularly, avoid close contact with others, and socially distance where possible. You can rewash your hands with your usual emollient to protect the skin and use moisturizer after washing hands and when the skin feels dry, cracked, or sore.
- When washing your hands, wash with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
- If soap and water are not available, use a hand sanitizer containing 60% alcohol. Apply moisturizer to your hands once hand sanitizer is dry if it is causing our eczema to worsen.
- Wear a face mask in public settings and where social distancing is not possible. Once you are fully vaccinated, wearing a face mask is optional.
- Avoid crowded situations.
- Practice self-monitoring.
- Avoid contact with people who are unwell.
- If someone in your home becomes unwell, follow medical guidance and isolation advice to reduce the risk of spreading the virus in your home.
What Does The Research Show
Research up to now has mostly focused on stress as a result of dermatological problems, rather than as a cause. In particular, scientists have investigated some of the most common dermatological conditions such as acne, eczema, alopecia, or psoriasis.
“It’s important to note, however, that this group of patients has been more ready than other groups to come forward in terms of communicating. There are ‘gaps’ in research of other skin conditions which may reveal similar emotional and stressful experiences,” says Simon Oates, CEO of Mind & Skin, a charity working to improve patients’ quality of life.
But studies investigating the role of stress in triggering skin problems have also emerged over the years. As early as the late 1970s, it was shown that patients with acne reported a worsening of the condition after going through a stressful event. Over the following decades, small questionnaire-based studies have confirmed this, showing that acne can be aggravated during stressful times, such as exam periods. The same has been suggested with other conditions such as eczema or, to a lesser degree, psoriasis.
The problem is that many of these studies still suffer from limitations, including small sample sizes, and the difficulty of conducting experiments in the lab to evaluate the impact of stress in real life.
In addition, there is evidence that stress is associated with the production of certain hormones, or with the secretion of substances that promote inflammation in the body.
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Complications Of Eczema And Covid
To help prevent the spread of COVID-19, regularly washing hands with soap and water is recommended. However, frequently washing hands with soap can cause problems for people with eczema, worsening symptoms.
To help lessen the effect of handwashing and sanitizing gel on your eczema symptoms, you can apply the following tips:
- Once you have thoroughly washed your hands with soap and water, you can rewash them with your usual emollient to protect the skin.
- Use moisturizer after washing hands and when the skin feels dry, cracked, or sore.
- Pat your hands dry rather than rubbing them to avoid irritation.
- Put an ointment or moisturizer on your hands and cover them with clean cotton gloves overnight to rehydrate hands if they are sore and dry.
- If you need to use a sanitizing gel, apply your usual emollient once the gel is dry.
- If you are using cleaning products, disinfectants, or washing dishes, wear gloves to protect your skin and avoid further irritation.
- If your eczema worsens or you suspect your skin is infected, then contact your healthcare provider for advice.
Stress can also exacerbate eczema symptoms through its effects on immune response and skin barrier function. It’s essential to be aware that the impact of COVID-19 on your life could be increasing your stress levels. Therefore, to help prevent eczema flare-ups, you can practice techniques to reduce stress levels.
Tips for managing stress and eczema include:
Try A Relaxing Activity
Explore and seek programs/activities that may be beneficial in coping up with a stress. You may start with meditation, yoga, tai chi, or other gentle exercises. Such activities are advised in addition to the other treatments implemented to manage certain stress related eczema conditions. Apart from relieving you from stress, such relaxing activities will help keep the body and mind healthy.
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Ultraviolet Radiation Therapy For Eczema
Exposure to ultraviolet radiation can help reduce the symptoms of chronic eczema. Exposure under medical supervision can be carefully monitored with the use of specially designed cabinets the person stands naked in the cabinet and fluorescent tubes emit ultraviolet radiation.A person with stubborn eczema may need up to 30 sessions. The risks of unsupervised ultraviolet radiation therapy can be the same as for sunbathing faster ageing of the skin and greater risk of skin cancer.
Ways To Reduce Stress
The best way to reduce stress-related eczema is to reduce your stress levels. Keep in mind there are many different types of stress ranging from psychological stress, emotional stress, and chronic stress. Some of the best ways to reduce stress are to:
- Going for walks outdoors, a light jog, and yoga are all great options that will reduce your stress response levels and not overwork your body.
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Eczema Coping Tips Beauty Products
Suggestions for using beauty products include:
- Remember that even hypoallergenic cosmetics can irritate your skin. Whenever possible, keep your face free of make-up.
- Avoid perfumes, fragranced skin lotions and strongly scented shampoos.
- When using a new cosmetic, try testing it first on a small, inconspicuous area of skin such as your forearm. If you experience a reaction, dont use the product again.
Stress And Immunity: General Background
Centrally, the HPA axis responds to psychological stress with upregulation of CRH, adrenocorticotropic hormone , neuropeptides , and glucocorticoids , as well as activation of the sympathetic and brainstem serotonergic nervous systems . Subsequently, increased levels of GCs and catecholamines suppress antigen-presenting cell production of interleukin -12, the principal cytokine inducer of T helper 1 -mediated humoral immune responses via induction of interferon-gamma and tumor necrosis factor-alpha . Thus, GCs inhibit the production of IL-12, IFN-, IFN-, and TNF- in both antigen-presenting cells and Th1 cells, and upregulate cytokines involved in T helper 2 -mediated antibody production responses, such as IL-4, IL-10, and IL-13 . Dendritic cells are specialized antigen-presenting cells of the skin and mucosal surfaces. These cells are thought to have an important role in the generation and regulation of immune responses, and likely represent the link between antigen uptake and clinical features of inflammatory skin diseases, such as AD .
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Sleeping Well When You Have Eczema
The itchy, uncomfortable skin associated with eczema can make sleeping difficult.
Lack of sleep can cause stress and worsen eczema symptoms, especially if sleeplessness occurs the night before an important activity or tiredness interferes with important activities during the day.
To get a better night’s sleep:
- Take a warm, relaxing bath or shower shortly before bed.
- Apply an eczema-friendly moisturizer after bathing to help sooth itches.
- Limit the use of electronics an hour or two before bedtime.
- Limit caffeine intake after lunch.
- Keep your bedroom dark.
- Take over-the-counter, sedating antihistamines shortly before bed to fight itchiness and make you drowsy.
Practice Good Bath And Shower Etiquette
Take warm baths or showers and keep them short. Long, hot showers can dry out your skin, making it more prone to flare-ups. Use unscented bath products, and not too much of them. When youre done, use a soft towel to pat yourself dry. Dont rub. Slather moisturizer on your skin immediately after a shower, while your skin is still damp, to help your skin best absorb the moisture and lock it on.
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Eczema Coping Tips Avoid Changes In Temperature
Abrupt temperature and humidity changes can sometimes irritate the skin for example, going in and out of air-conditioned buildings on hot days or heated buildings on cold days.Hard physical activity or exercise that makes you sweat heavily can also trigger the itch of eczema.Suggestions include:
- In winter, dont overheat your house. Dress warmly when going outdoors and remove the extra layers as soon as you return.
- In summer, dont over cool your house. Air conditioners can dry out the air and irritate your skin.
- Avoid hard physical activity in hot weather. For example, do your gardening first thing in the morning, or in the evening when the sun is lower in the sky.
Foods That Make Eczema Worse
Telltale itchy bumps and blisters are the bane of anyone whos ever dealt with eczema. One hidden culprit might be what youre eating. Science is still connecting the dots between diet and atopic dermatitis, but one or more of these key foods might be causing or making your flares worse.
This common inflammatory skin condition affects adults, children, and babies. Itchy rashes can pop up anywhere and seemingly at any time. Dermatologists and doctors arent always quite certain what causes it. However, your diet, environment, and stress can aggravate and cause symptoms.
Atopic and contact dermatitis are the most common types of eczema. No matter your type, the foods you eat can worsen your symptoms or lead to a flare-up. Its best to learn your triggers, especially if they arent on our list. Every person is different, and some of us have hidden food allergies and intolerances that can cause flares too.
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First Look At Your Diet
Even if you cant eliminate the source of your stress, you may still be able to help yourself cope better with the ordeal. Thats why Id recommend starting with your diet.
As I mentioned earlier, food intolerances can play a role in eczema, not to mentioned that certain food products such as refined sugar, can impact the overall health of your skin please check this article The bitter truth about sugar and your skin, if you want to learn more.
Eczema Coping Tips Good Hygiene
Skin affected by eczema is more vulnerable to a range of infections, including impetigo, cold sores and warts. The bacterium Staphylococcus aureus may cause a secondary infection of impetigo, and possibly contribute to the symptoms of eczema.Suggestions for washing include:
- Take lukewarm baths or showers, and avoid really hot showers.
- Dont use ordinary soap, as the ingredients may aggravate your eczema. Wash your body with warm water alone. For armpits and groin, use soap-free products, such as sorbolene cream.
- Bath oils can help to moisturise your skin while bathing.
- When towelling dry, pat rather than rub your skin.
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What Else Should I Know
If you live with eczema, tune in to what triggers it and how to manage it. For example, if you find that some types of makeup irritate your skin, ask a dermatologist to recommend brands that are less likely to do so.
Your self-esteem doesn’t have to suffer because you have eczema, and neither does your social life! Getting involved in your school and extracurricular activities can be a great way to get your mind off the itch.
Don’t forget to exercise. It’s a great way to blow off stress try walking, bike riding, swimming, or another sport that keeps your skin cool and dry while you work out.
Mindful Meditation And Relaxation Practices For Stress
Research suggests that mindful meditation especially regimens like mindfulness-based stress reduction can help alleviate psychological stress and improve emotional well-being.
JAMA Internal MedicinePsychiatry Research
Other complementary relaxation techniques include:
- Light, graceful exercises, such as yoga, tai chi, or ballet
- Positive imagery or visualization, in which you focus your thoughts on an image associated with your desired change, such as a tropical rain forest to represent moist skin
- Acupuncture, a traditional Chinese medicine in which thin needles are inserted at specific points of the body
- Distraction activities, such as writing, painting, video games, and knitting
- Listening to soothing music or nature sounds
Lio says he typically introduces his patients to several of these techniques and asks which ones sound good to them. Finding ways to relax and de-stress are critical, he says. Sometimes it takes a few tries to find the right fit for someone, but once found, it can make a tremendous impact.
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How Is Eczema Treated
If youâre diagnosed with eczema, your doctor might:
- prescribe medicines to put on the skin that soothe the redness and irritation, such as creams or ointments that contain corticosteroids
- recommend other medicines to take by mouth if the eczema is really bad or you get it a lot
If someone has severe eczema, ultraviolet light therapy can help clear up the condition. Newer medicines that change the way the skinâs immune system reacts also may help.
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