Check Up - Does stress cause my eczema?
Annmarie, who is a 29-year-old office attendant working in New Kingston, asks Check Up if stress can cause her eczema.
Her palms and soles strip all the time and her entire body feels itchy, although there is no visible rash outside of the hands and feet. She wonders if the condition couldn't be caused by the chemicals she works with.
Well, Annmarie, stress can affect your entire body, including hair, nails and skin. Your emotions have a strong connection to your skin. Our skin is the largest organ of our body and stress registers there very quickly. Stress makes dry skin drier and spotty skin even spottier. When stressed, the body produces more adrenaline, a stress hormone which causes flushes and worsens acne. Prolonged stress also slows down production of elastin fibres, resulting in ageing, as the skin begins to sag. This stress change can be permanent in older women. Stress worsens eczema and other skin conditions such as psoriasis, hives and herpes blisters.
If a skin problem occurs while stressed and won't go away, then the person should rethink how they handle their stress. Eczema worsens under stress, and people itch and scratch for no obvious reason when stressed. Stress can trigger a release of an excess of histamine, which can result in allergic skin rashes. Cortisol is another hormone which increases when the body is stressed and can also cause skin conditions. Stress results in water loss from the skin and impairs the skin's ability to heal and repair itself.
Ways to reduce the effects of stress on your skin include:
• Take care of your skin, even when stressed.
• Get regular exercise. This is good for the skin and the entire body.
• Learn to deal with stress. Walk, jog, do yoga or Pilates, practise meditation.
• Get enough hours of sleep. Sleep rejuvenates the body.
• Do something which you find enjoyable. Read a book, call a favourite friend and talk.
• Avoid hot showers.
• Use detergent-free soaps.
• Use sunscreen to protect the skin from sun exposure.