Stress & The Effects on the Skin

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stress

It has been established in recent years that the skin is a direct target of psychological stress via a cascade of hormones, neuropeptides, and neurogenic signals (causing nerve hypersensitivity and inflammation). The skin has been shown to be capable of launching its own local response to stress as well by producing many of the same substances that the brain produces, further enhancing the local effect at the skin level when someone is under acute or prolonged stress. It is no surprise that the skin can perceive and respond to stress similar to the brain and nervous system, since the two systems have evolved from the same germ layer during embryonic development.

The main skin cells (keratinocytes), mast cells (involved in allergy type reactions and inflammation), immune cells, and peripheral nerve endings all will have an effect on various cell behaviour and processes within the skin under stress that can lead to skin disruption, premature ageing and disease development.

The skin is rich in nerve endings, so when an individual is stressed the peripheral nerve endings secrete numerous substances such as Substance P and Nerve growth factor that contribute to hypersensitivity, inflammation, and allergic reactions.

Due to the impact of stress related hormones and peptides, and growth factors on the skin, stress can play a role in the development and exacerbation of skin disorders such as Eczema, Acne, Psoriasis, and Rosacea.

Psychological stress activates the autonomic nervous system to trigger release of catecholamines [e.g. epinephrine and norepinephrine] from the adrenal glands, and in situations of chronic stress corticotrophin releasing hormone [CRH] and ACTH (adrenocorticotropic hormone), mediate a release of glucocorticoids (Cortisol) from the adrenal cortex.

Here is a brief outline of some key stress mediators and the effect that they have on the skin:

Glucocorticoids:

Excess levels can cause atrophy and impaired wound healing by interfering with keratinocyte and fibroblast function. Keratinocytes are the primary skin cells that form the epidermis of the skin, and fibroblasts are responsible for collagen and elastin formation.

This manifests as atrophy and thinning of the skin, increased trans-epidermal water loss related to disruption to the skin permeability barrier, and easy bruising with impaired wound healing.

The skin barrier is also negatively impacted by excess cortisol as this effects the lamellar bodies in the skin cells which are responsible for lipid synthesis; the lack of essential lipids weakens the barrier resulting in dry skin, allergies and sensitivity, delayed healing and infections.

Insulin:

Excess glucocorticoids stimulate Insulin production and lead to insulin excess and Insulin resistance. Elevated Insulin stimulates IGF2 (Insulin growth factor) which increases growth of keratinocytes, and stimulates abnormal keratinocyte growth, (exacerbates Psoriasis and Acne) and increases androgens and testosterone release.

Substance P:

This is neuropeptide released in times of stress. Substance P stimulates sebaceous germinative cells and proliferation of sebaceous glands which results in excess oil production and blockage of the oil ducts and the development of acne. Substance P also activates mast cells, increasing histamine release and itch sensation. Substance P induces vascular permeability and inflammation, which aggravates conditions like Eczema and Rosacea.

Corticotropin Releasing Hormone (CRH):

CRH stimulates release of MSH (melanocyte stimulating hormone) causing hyperpigmentation and blotchy skin.

Catecholamines (Adrenaline, Noradrenaline)

Decrease blood perfusion to skin reducing availability of oxygen and nutrients resulting in poor texture and sallow / pallor. Catecholamines have also been shown to cause immune suppression, interfere with DNA repair and contribute to ageing.

Managing stress

While the effects of stress on the skin are only briefly outlined above, it illustrates the significant impact this can have on individuals predisposed to skin conditions. It is therefore imperative to minimise stress where possible in order to avoid any exacerbation of skin disorders.

There are some straight forward tips to reduce stress such as getting a good night’s sleep, exercising and following some simple dietary guidelines (listed below).

stress_2

Reduce salt intake

Avoid alcohol

Avoid caffeine

Avoid skipping meals

Avoid refined, processed foods.

Avoid high fat foods

Do eat high fibre, low glycaemic index diet

In the following blogs we will present some relaxation techniques that are easy to implement and will have a direct effect in reducing the side effects of stress.

 

References

  1. Dunn, Jeffrey HKoo, John; Psychological Stress and skin aging: A review of possible mechanisms and potential therapies; Dermatology Online Journal 19 (6): 1 University of Colorado, School of
  2. Medicine, 2 University of California, San Francisco, Department of Dermatology 2013 Permalink: http://escholarship.org/uc/item/3j0766hs
  3. Jessica M. F. Hall, desAnges Cruser, Alan Podawiltz, Diana I. Mummert, Harlan Jones, Mark E. Mummert; Psychological Stress and the Cutaneous Immune Response: Roles of the HPA Axis and the Sympathetic Nervous System in Atopic Dermatitis and Psoriasis; Dermatology Research and Practice Volume 2012, Article ID 403908, doi:10.1155/2012/403908
  4. Ying Chen, John Lyga; Brain – Skin Connection: Stress, Inflammation and Skin Aging; Inflammation & Allergy – Drug Targets, 2014, 13, 177-190
  5. Theoharis C. Theoharides, Jill M. Donelan, Nikoletta Papadopoulou, Jing Cao, Duraisamy Kempuraj, Pio Conti; Mast cells as targets of corticotropin releasing factor and related peptides; TRENDS in Pharmacological Sciences Vol.25 No.11 November 2004

PSORIASIS AND COMORBIDITIES – Psychological and Psychiatric Disorders – PART 3

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The last in our 3 part series addressing psychological and psychiatric disorders associated with psoriasis.

   Psychological and Psychiatric Disorders –

   Sleep Disorders

   Somatoform Disorders

   Substance dependence of abuse

1, 2, 3

Sleep Disorders

It is thought that psoriasis has a direct effect on the development of sleep disorders due to the cutaneous (skin) symptoms of the condition. The skin is the primary circadian mediator of core body temperature (CBT), and a decrease in CBT in the late evening is an important mechanism for sleep initiation. Psoriasis has been associated with problems with thermoregulation and researchers have indicated that the reduced ability to dissipate heat is one factor in the inability to initiate sleep. Pruritus (itch) is another contributor to sleep disturbance and it is also regulated by circadian mechanisms. The threshold for pruritus is lowered in the evening due to complex circadian-mediated factors such as lower cortisol levels, decreased epidermal barrier function, and increased distal-to-proximal (distant limbs-to-body centre) gradient in skin temperature. Thus pruritus in psoriasis typically manifests or exacerbates mainly in the evening and worsens at night. 4,5,6

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The inflammatory biological mechanism(s) that lead to initiation and exacerbation of psoriasis, also contribute to the development of systemic diseases e.g. depressive disease, hypertension (blood pressure), adverse cardiac events, diabetes, metabolic syndrome and obesity. All of these conditions are known to indirectly give rise to sleep-disordered breathing. The heightened pro-inflammatory state in conditions such as obstructive sleep apnoea syndrome (OSAS) and insomnia could in turn lead to exacerbations of psoriasis.4,5,6

A systematic review of the literature on the relationship between psoriasis, PsA, and formal sleep disorders identified an increased prevalence of OSAS with a 36-81% prevalence in psoriasis versus 2% for women and 4% for men in the general population.4,5  In one study researchers found that some patients with chronic psoriasis and concurrent OSAS showed improvement of their psoriatic lesions while on nasal continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP).6 OSAS leads to severe physical and, possibly, psychological stress to the body, e.g., by hypoxemia (low blood oxygen levels), increased blood pressure, tachycardia (fast or irregular heart rate), sleep fragmentation, reduction of deep sleep, reduction of REM sleep, hypersomnia (excessive sleepiness), and insomnia. It is known that OSAS also dysregulates the function of the patient’s autonomic nervous system and hormone system. It is felt that this might alter the homeostasis of the immune neuroendocrine network in the skin and may cause the initiation of psoriasis in the genetically predisposed individuals.4,5,6

Somatoform Disorders – psychosomatic symptoms

Somatization is the manifestation of psychological distress by the presentation of bodily symptoms such as feeling nausea due to anxiety, stress headaches, falling ill after a trauma and inability to cope with a disease. 

Patients with psoriasis exhibit higher scores of hypochondriasis, hysteria, and somatization. As previously exposed hypochondriasis and hysteria may be connected with specific personality traits of patients with psoriasis of late-onset. Psychosomatic factors, namely stressful life events, lack of social support, and attachment insecurity, may explain why patients with psoriasis have greater scores of somatization. Moreover, the presence of depression in psoriasis may modulate itch perception and then exacerbate symptoms of pruritus.7 (Refer to Part 1 of this series) A systematic review of the psychosocial burden of psoriasis found that social stigmatization, high stress levels, physical limitations, depression, employment problems and other psychosocial co-morbidities experienced by patients with psoriasis are not always proportional to, or predicted by, other measurements of disease severity such as body surface area involvement or plaque severity. Some psoriasis patients had, even when their lesions were small and mild, levels of stress and loss of confidence that was not in keeping with the severity of their condition – which leads to the conclusion that they had maladaptive coping mechanisms in play e.g. self blame, blaming parents, social phobia, avoidance behaviours, substance and alcohol abuse etc. 9

Substance – Dependence of Abuse

In our previous blog Psoriasis and Alcohol (ethanol), we stated that patients with psoriasis experience considerable emotional distress, depression and social isolation due to the visibility of skin lesions, especially when the lesions are widespread and severe. Whilst it would be demeaning to state that all psoriasis patients with mild to severe psoriasis suffer from alcoholism, it has been confirmed in several Quality of Life studies that the percentage of psoriasis patients who admit to having a drinking problem may be as high as 32%. Research indicates that men are more likely to use alcohol excessively as a coping mechanism with the psychosocial burden of psoriasis. Consequently they are at a higher risk of developing depression – with the alcohol misuse and psoriasis as underlying causes. 4 Another study indicated that for women, excessive alcohol intake above a certain threshold (?30.0 g/d), may be associated with a significantly increased risk of Psoriatic Arthritis (PsA).5

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Alcohol is known to inhibit inflammation and immune responses; however acute and chronic alcohol consumption have opposite effects on inflammatory cell activation. Results indicate that acute alcohol exposure is inhibitory, whereas chronic alcohol exposure leads to an increase in inflammatory cell responses.6

Research has confirmed that alcoholics are more susceptible to infections, as streptococcal infections are trigger factors for psoriasis, this increased susceptibility may be involved in the onset and progress of the disease. It is also known that measurable quantities of ingested ethanol are secreted through human skin. Transdermal ethanol derives from two processes: active secretion by eccrine glands, primarily sweat glands, and passive diffusion through the lipid layers of the skin. Ethanol disrupts the dermal barrier enhancing skin permeability for numerous chemicals and increases the solubility of penetrating chemical compounds.6

Research into the the use of illicit drugs and psoriasis is extremely limited. Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA), also called Ecstasy, has been reported to initiate Guttate Psoriasis. The researchers theorized that “While MDMA [the main ingredient in ecstasy] is taken for its psychomimetic effect, pharmacologically it increases the level of noradrenaline, serotonin and dopamine by inhibiting the reuptake mechanism. It is known that Patients with psoriasis already have increased levels of noradrenaline.”7 There are also anecdotal stories on support websites where psoriasis sufferers have spoken about the exacerbation of their psoriasis with the use of “meth” (Methamphetamine, Ice). Within our clinic we have had several patients whose psoriasis was initiated and exacerbated by the use of cannabis (street not medicinal), once they ceased the use of cannabis their psoriasis resolved. As long as they did not use cannabis they remained free of any psoriatic lesions.

REFERENCES

  • Susskind W. and McGuire R.J.: The Emotional Factor in Psoriasis; Scot. med, J., 1959,4:503
  • Kessler R. C. et al.; Epidemiology of Anxiety Disorders; M.B. Stein and T. Steckler (eds.), Behavioral Neurobiology of Anxiety and Its Treatment, Current Topics in Behavioral Neurosciences 2, DOI 10.1007/7854_2009_9, # Springer?Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2009, published online 3 September 2009
  • Nasreen S. et al.; Frequency and Magnitude of Anxiety and Depression in Patients with Psoriasis Vulgaris; Journal of the College of Physicians and Surgeons Pakistan 2008, Vol. 18 (7): 397-400
  • Brenaut E. et al.; Alcohol consumption and psoriasis: a systematic literature review. J Eur Acad Dermatol Venerol. 2013 Aug;27 Suppl 3:30-5. doi: 10.1111/jdv.12164.
  • Shaowei Wu et al.; Alcohol Intake and Risk of Incident Psoriatic Arthritis in Women; J Rheumatol. 2015 May ; 42(5): 835–840. doi:10.3899/jrheum.140808.
  • Farkas A, Kemény L.; Psoriasis and alcohol: is cutaneous ethanol one of the missing links?; • British Journal of Dermatology 2010 162, pp711–716
  • Tan B., Foley P.; Guttate psoriasis following Ecstasy ingestion; Australasian Journal of Dermatology45(3):167-9 September 2004?

PSORIASIS AND COMORBIDITIES – Psychological and Psychiatric Disorders – PART 2

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WHAT IS COMORBIDITY?

Comorbidity is a concurrence of multiple diseases or disorders in association with a given disease, in this case, psoriasis.

 INCREASED RISK

 The patient with psoriasis has an increased risk of developing one or more of a number of other diseases/conditions that share many immunological features with psoriasis.

 CHART 1: Comorbidities Associated with Psoriasis

    Psychological and Psychiatric Disorders –

   Personality Traits and Personality Disorders

   Schizophrenia and other psychoses

   Sexual Dysfunction

1, 2, 3

Personality Traits and Personality Disorders

It has also been proposed by a number of researchers that patients with skin disease usually present with certain psychological traits that makes them vulnerable to stress. Although a specific personality structure for psoriasis patients has not yet been defined, psoriasis patients are reported to have more obsessive compulsive, avoidant, schizoid and passive-aggressive properties than healthy controls, however the research surrounding personality and psoriasis is still controversial. 4

The term personality represents the different behavioural styles that individuals present in their habitual habitats or environments.4 In one study of male psoriasis patients and a control group the psoriasis group scored significantly higher scores than the control group in Extravagance (NS3), Disorderliness (NS4), Novelty Seeking (NS), Anticipatory Worry (HA1), Shyness with Strangers (HA3), Fatigability and asthenia – weakness – lack of energy and strength (HA4), Harm Avoidance (HA), Dependence (RD3), Reward Dependence (RD), Self-forgetfulness (ST1), Transpersonal Identification (ST2), Spiritual Acceptance (ST3) and Self-Transcendence – the ability to focus attention on doing something for the sake of others (ST).5

Another study found that the severity of pruritus (itch) and the severity of psoriasis was associated with significantly higher scores for depression and anxiety, and showed the personality traits of somatic anxiety (physical reactions to anxiety e.g. sweating, nausea etc.), embitterment, mistrust, and physical trait aggressiveness. However, the researchers also found that the severity of itch was not associated with the severity of psoriasis from a PASI score perspective. In fact they found that there was a higher severity of itch reported in 30% of psoriasis patients in which the greater majority of these had very few lesions.6

Psoriasis Patients often report felt or perceived stigma, referring to the negative attitudes and responses that they perceive to be present in society and the sense of shame and fear of being discriminated against because of being ‘flawed’ due to the physical appearance of their lesions. The actual experiences of stigmatization range from –  people showing disgust or aversion, making negative comments or totally avoiding contact.6

Stigmatization contributes considerably to disability, depression and reduced quality of life in psoriasis patients, and can be considered a stressor. As distress can be a trigger for psoriasis exacerbation, this can become a vicious self-perpetuating cycle. The Type D personality has previously been associated with increased risk of cardiovascular morbidity and mortality and impaired health behaviour e.g. smoking and alcohol dependence, which are both frequently reported in psoriasis. The two main features – SI (social inhibition) and NA (negative affectivity) – may both increase the impact of perceived stigmatization. SI refers to conscious or subconscious avoidance of a situation or social interaction because of the possibility of others disapproving of their feelings or expressions.  Whilst NA refers to negative emotions, including anger, contempt, disgust, guilt, and fear, and nervousness. Furthermore, individuals with high levels of NA may be more likely to perceive social interactions as negative, due to the associated cognitive bias to negative feedback. In one study researchers found that perceived stigmatization was particularly predicted by disease impact, as well as by lower age, lower education, greater disease severity and visibility, longer disease duration, higher levels of SI, having a type D personality and being single. 6

The researchers concluded that it seems likely that patients with psoriasis who are prone to feelings of helplessness regarding the disease may also experience a larger impact of psoriasis and magnify negative reactions of others. Type D personality and its subcomponent SI were found to be significant predictors of perceived stigmatization. The fear of disapproval that leads individuals to inhibit emotions or behaviour in SI may explain its relation to perceived stigmatization. They stated that socially inhibited individuals may be more sensitive to the reactions of others and may therefore perceive themselves to be stigmatized more readily. They found that not only was SI in itself, but also the combination of higher levels of SI and NA (type D personality) was a significant predictor of perceived stigmatization, which  corresponded with previous studies that suggested that type D was associated with social impairments. 6

It was suggested that Practitioners should screen for feelings of Stigmatization and related problems, and implement with the patient, targeted interventions that may focus on the impact of the condition on daily life, considering that this was the largest predictor. Therapy, such as Cognitive Behavioural Treatment, which should include social skills training, has shown promise as an intervention treatment. Previous research indicates that it can decrease perceived stigmatization in skin conditions, improve psychological and disease-related outcomes in psoriasis patients, and decrease feelings of helplessness, which shows high correlations with disease severity and impact. 6

It is extremely important that psoriasis sufferers do not cut themselves off from social interactions and it is highly recommended that they join a support group that is not only internet based but one that meets socially on a face to face basis. 

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Schizophrenia and other psychoses

 The psychiatric morbidity in psoriasis is considered an important indicator of the disability experienced by the patient than the dermatologic aspects of the disorder, sometimes more so than the physical aspect of the lesions. Some studies have found a possible connection between psoriasis and psychosis, including schizophrenia. Schizophrenia is a polygenic (involvement of 2 or more genes), multifactorial disorder and recent neuroanatomical and neurobiological being related to the nervous system as well as environmental and genetic studies have suggested that inflammatory pathways are also involved in its pathogenesis. Because psoriasis is also considered a state of chronic systemic inflammation involving several genes and is a related immune processes might explain the link between psoriasis and its comorbidities.7

In a systematic review researchers reviewed the published clinical papers on the link between psoriasis and Schizophrenia and other psychoses. The results of the systematic review found that there is some evidence of a relationship between schizophrenia and/or disorders with psychotic features and psoriasis. In one case-controlled study the authors concluded that schizophrenic patients have a higher probability of having a diagnosis of psoriasis whilst other studies highlighted that psoriasis patients have a higher risk of having schizophrenic traits. The main characteristics of schizoid character are social isolation, intimacy avoidance and restricted affections. Although for a long time was considered that a schizoid character was related to schizophrenia, this has been found to be not always true. Nevertheless, schizoids may be more susceptible to psychosis. This personality shares with schizophrenia, although with its own subtleties, the problem of the distinction between the “self” and the “other”. Several studies have reported on the occurrence of psoriasis in schizophrenia patients being treated with cyclosporine A and olanzapine. And other schizophrenia patients with existing psoriasis found that treatment with haloperidol and levomepromazine actually also improved the patients psoriasis.7

 For some psoriasis patients it was found that whilst they were experiencing a worsening of their skin lesions their existing psychotic condition also worsened, and as their skin improved so too did their psychotic condition.7 The hypothesis is that psoriasis, schizophrenia and other psychotic conditions share similar pathways.

Sexual Dysfunction

Sexual health is an important part of general health and sexual dysfunctions can negatively affect self-esteem, confidence and interpersonal relationships. The impact of psoriasis upon sexual function seems to be substantial and it has a significant impact in quality of life. One study found that when compared to a control group, the psoriasis group showed significant impairment of all the components of sexual function: sexual interest, sexual arousal, orgasm, erection and sexual satisfaction. “Sexual interest” and “global sexual satisfaction” were the most negatively affected components. Male patients with psoriasis showed an increase in erectile dysfunction compared to controls. The prevalence of sexual dysfunction was 53.7% in patients with psoriasis vs. 17.5% in the healthy control group. The researchers also found that psoriasis lesions on the genitals, buttocks, abdomen or lumbar (back) region were significantly linked to sexual dysfunction and those psoriasis patients with sexual dysfunction had higher scores for depression (32.5%) and anxiety (50%). 9

Certain components of sexual response, such as sexual interest, depend primarily on psychological factors, and are impaired by conditions such as anxiety and depression, while others such as erection and orgasm can be affected by psychological and physical causes.

It has also been suggested that the sexual dysfunctions might not be as a direct result of depression, but rather of low self-esteem or other emotional problems. As sexual impairment in psoriasis patients was seen to occur in all components of the sexual response, the researchers concluded that this suggested that sexual dysfunction in psoriasis must be a consequence of several combined factors.9,10

If you have a concern about depression, bipolar, schizophrenia or sexual dysfunction please discuss your concerns with your General Practitioner.

Read also PSORIASIS AND COMORBIDITIES – Psychological and Psychiatric Disorders – Part 1

REFERENCES

  • Susskind W. and McGuire R.J.: The Emotional Factor in Psoriasis; Scot. med, J., 1959,4:503
  • Kessler R. C. et al.; Epidemiology of Anxiety Disorders; M.B. Stein and T. Steckler (eds.), Behavioral Neurobiology of Anxiety and Its Treatment, Current Topics in Behavioral Neurosciences 2, DOI 10.1007/7854_2009_9, # Springer?Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2009, published online 3 September 2009
  • Nasreen S. et al.; Frequency and Magnitude of Anxiety and Depression in Patients with Psoriasis Vulgaris; Journal of the College of Physicians and Surgeons Pakistan 2008, Vol. 18 (7): 397-400
  • Martín-Brufau R. et al.; Personality in Patients with Psoriasis; Chapter 11 rfrom the book Psoriasis Downloaded from: http://www.intechopen.com/books/psoriasis
  • Ak M. et al.; Temperament and character properties of male psoriasis patients; Journal of Health Psychology; pg 1-8; 2011; DOI: 10.1177/1359105311423863
  • Remröd ;  Pruritus in Psoriasis: A Study of Personality Traits, Depression and Anxiety; Acta Derm Venereol 2015; 95: 439–443;
  • Ferreira BR, Pio Abreu JL and Figueiredo A.; Psoriasis, Schizophrenia and Disorders with Psychotic Features: Are They Linked?; J Schizophr Res. 2015;2(1): 1006.
  • Molina-Leyva A. et al.; Distribution pattern of psoriasis, anxiety and depression as possible causes of sexual dysfunction in patients with moderate to severe psoriasis; An Bras Dermatol. 2015;90(3):338-45
  • Sarbu, Maria Isabela; Tampa, Mircea; Sarbu, Alexandra Elenda; and Georgescu, Simona Roxana (2014) “Sexual Dysfunctions in Psoriatic Patients,” Journal of Mind and Medical Sciences: Vol. 1: Iss. 1, Article 5.

PSORIASIS AND COMORBIDITIES – Psychological and Psychiatric Disorders – Part 1

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WHAT IS COMORBIDITY?

Comorbidity is a concurrence of multiple diseases or disorders in association with a given disease, in this case, psoriasis.

INCREASED RISK

 The patient with psoriasis has an increased risk of developing one or more of a number of other diseases/conditions that share many immunological features with psoriasis.

CHART 1: Comorbidities Associated with Psoriasis

Psychological and Psychiatric Disorders – Depression

anxiety

Suicide

Addiction

1, 2, 3

Psychophysiologic disorders are associated with skin conditions, such as psoriasis, that are frequently precipitated or exacerbated by emotional stress. For many sufferers of psoriasis associated depression, anxiety, addictions to alcohol etc. and even suicidal thoughts are common.

As far back as the 1940s and 1950s researchers explored the relationship between emotions and psoriasis theorizing various ideas such as “chronic psoriasis is often linked with deeply repressed emotional conflicts”, that “nervous exhaustion” may play a role in the causation and aggravation of the disease”, and that “in emotionally maladjusted individuals the psychological factor may ‘take charge’ of the psoriasis and determine its onset, persistence and relapses.” 1  

Since the 1970’s numerous studies have been conducted by researchers in the bid to understand the subtleties involved in the interplay between mental and emotional stresses, anxieties and depression with psoriasis. Research in the 2000s has greatly defined the psychological and psychiatric disorders associated with psoriasis, they include:-

Anxiety Disorders 1, 2

  • Acute stress disorder–anxiety symptoms occur immediately following a trauma, but are short-lived.
  • Adjustment disorder with anxious features–anxiety symptoms in relation to a major life-changing event – like getting married or moving to another city. Symptoms generally start within three months of the stressful event and occur for six months or less.
  • Substance-induced anxiety disorder– generally resolves when the substance is discontinued or when withdrawal from the substance is over.

INCLUDING:

  • Panic Disorder (With Or Without Agoraphobia) – consists of severe, immediate anxiety symptoms (a panic attack) due to a broad range of fears, such as of open spaces, public transportation or about being trapped or about being safe when outside the home, as well as the worry over having another panic attack.
  • Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)– is characterized by excessive, exaggerated anxiety and worry about everyday life events with no obvious reasons for worry. People with symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder tend to always expect disaster and constantly worry about health, money, family, work, or school, which is often totally unrealistic or out of proportion for the situation. Day to day life becomes a constant state of worry, fear, and dread.
  • Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD)

       People with social anxiety disorder (sometimes called “social phobia”) have a marked fear of social or performance situations in which they expect to            feel embarrassed, judged, rejected, or fearful of offending others.

       Social anxiety disorder symptoms include:

  •   Feeling highly anxious about being with other people and having a hard time talking to them
  •   Feeling very self-conscious in front of other people and worried about feeling humiliated, embarrassed, or rejected, or fearful of                                         offending others
  •   Being very afraid that other people will judge them
  •   Worrying for days or weeks before an event where other people will be
  •   Staying away from places where there are other people
  •   Having a hard time making friends and keeping friends
  •   Blushing, sweating, or trembling around other people
  •    Feeling nauseous or sick to your stomach when other people are around
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) – anxiety symptoms are in the form of intrusive, obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors (or mental acts). OCD is considered a chronic type of anxiety disorder.
  • Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)– anxiety symptoms that occur after a trauma and are long-term in nature.
  • Social phobia, also referred to as Social Anxiety Disorder – anxiety symptoms occur in social or performance situations and stem from the fear of being humiliated or embarrassed.
  • Specific phobia or a simple phobia– anxiety symptoms occur around a specific object or situation which results in avoidance.

Psoriasis sufferers have reported more stressful life events in comparison with control subjects. The link between psoriasis and anxiety can be analyzed in two ways – anxiety can lead to psoriasis and psoriasis can lead to anxiety. Also research has confirmed that an increase in severity of psoriasis leads to an increasing frequency of anxiety. The magnitude of this anxiety may be influenced by variables of disease e.g. severity, distribution of lesions, duration of condition and nail and joint involvement. Likewise it should also be noted that variables of life e.g. age, gender and marital status influence psoriasis associated anxiety and depression. 3

Eating Disorders – Obesity 4,5

Increasing evidence suggests that patients with psoriasis may be more obese compared with the general population. Although the exact mechanism underlying the association between psoriasis and obesity is uncertain, researchers have theorized that adipocytes (fat cells) as a rich source of pro-inflammatory cytokines may exacerbate psoriasis.

Which Comes First? Obesity or Psoriasis?

The answer to this question remains unknown as the precise mechanism underlying the association between psoriasis and obesity remains elusive. However, two longitudinal prospective cohort studies found weight gain or obesity; particularly from the age of 18 years was a risk for developing psoriasis in women. It still bust be noted that not all psoriasis sufferers are obese and not all obese individuals develop psoriasi

Mood Disorders (Depressive Disorders and Bipolar Disorder)6

Research has recently considered whether psoriasis is a psycho-dermatological disorder.

A psycho-dermatological disorder is a condition that involves an interaction between the nervous and the integumentary (skin) system. Psoriasis has been found to be associated with clinical depression commonly known as major depression through an immunological phenomenon. Research has shown the possibility of a relationship between common forms of psoriasis and major depressive disorder and an increase in stress and depressive symptoms has been found to have a significant statistical correlation with an increase in psoriasis flare-ups and pruritus severity along with a more clinically disfiguring disease. In addition, studies have shown that a decrease in depression/depressive symptoms due to medication or therapy is often associated with a decrease in psoriasis severity and vice versa. Other research has found that many inflammatory markers and cytokines which are released during depression are also released during psoriasis.

Research into depression has found that it leads to an increase in the concentration of proinflammatory cytokines systemically in patients afflicted with the disease, and that these same proinflammatory cytokines migrate towards the epidermis (skin) and cause psoriatic lesions in susceptible patients, either increasing psoriasis severity or potentially leading to its initiation or a flare up. Other research has found that mutations in genes related to psoriasis cause an increase in the same proinflammatory cytokines. These cytokines can cause HPA axis (hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis) hyperactivity which is observed in major depressive disorder and that this then disturbs the negative feedback inhibition of circulating corticosteroids on the said axis and leads to lower serotonergic (5-HT) neurotransmitter levels, thus leading to a depressive disorder. READ ALSO OUR PREVIOUS BLOG: – STRESS, ANXIETY,

DEPRESSION AND PSORIASIS

Bipolar Disorders

Bipolar is a significant, serious and debilitating mood disorder. If it is not bad enough that a person may have this condition, Lithium, one of the most commonly prescribed psychotropic medications for this condition, has been associated with a wide range of cutaneous side effects including the initiation and exacerbation of psoriasis. In the general population prevalence of bipolar is estimated to be 3%, the prevalence of psoriasis varies from 1–5% in Western Countries; approximately 2% of these patients will suffer from bipolar.

Lithium, which has been in use for the treatment of bipolar for over 50 years, has a long history of systemic adverse effects, including the skin. The reported prevalence of the cutaneous side effects varies from 3% to 45% in different studies. Acne/acneiform and psoriasiform rashes are among the major cutaneous adverse effects of lithium and these may result in noncompliance. It should be noted; however, not all the patients with pre-existing psoriasis show flares while they are on lithium treatment. Male patients who take lithium are more likely to develop cutaneous reactions than their female counterparts.7

 Look out for our next edition on this topic –  PSORIASIS AND COMORBIDITIES – Psychological and Psychiatric Disorders – Part 2 

REFERENCES

  • Susskind W. and McGuire R.J.: The Emotional Factor in Psoriasis; Scot. med, J., 1959,4:503
  • Kessler R. C. et al.; Epidemiology of Anxiety Disorders; M.B. Stein and T. Steckler (eds.), Behavioral Neurobiology of Anxiety and Its Treatment, Current Topics in Behavioral Neurosciences 2, DOI 10.1007/7854_2009_9, # Springer?Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2009, published online 3 September 2009
  • Nasreen S. et al.; Frequency and Magnitude of Anxiety and Depression in Patients with Psoriasis Vulgaris; Journal of the College of Physicians and Surgeons Pakistan 2008, Vol. 18 (7): 397-400
  • Toussirot É. Et al.; Relationships between adipose tissue and psoriasis, with or without arthritis; Frontiers in Immunology; August 2014 | Volume 5 | Article 368 ; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4129363/pdf/fimmu-05-00368.pdf
  • Aldeen, et al; Obesity and Psoriasis: Can Bariatric Surgery Trigger Psoriasis?; J Clin Exp Dermatol Res 2015, 6:6 http://dx.doi.org/http://dx.doi.org/ 10.4172/2155-9554.1000305
  • Tohid H. et al.; Major Depression and Psoriasis: A Psychodermatological Phenomenon; Skin Pharmacol Physiol 2016;29:220–230 DOI: 10.1159/000448122

 

Atopic Dermatitis (Eczema) and Psychological Disorders

skinconditionsblogcategory

Psychological Disorders: –

Depression

Anxiety

Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

Atopic Dermatitis (AD) is a multifactorial, immune mediated, chronic and relapsing skin disease, with significant emotional distress, sleep disturbance and Quality of Life (QoL) difficulties. 1,2,3

Most cases of AD begin in childhood or adolescence, with more than 80% of pediatric patients having persistent symptoms of itch and dry skin in adulthood. The early age of onset and disease chronicity, plus impaired quality of life weighs heavily on a child’s psychological and behavioural development. This often leads to delayed social development throughout life and very high rates of psychological and behavioural disorders.5, The impairment of quality of life caused by childhood AD has been shown to be greater than or equal to other common childhood diseases such as asthma and diabetes, emphasising the importance of AD as a major chronic childhood disease.1,2,3

AD patients have been described with lower self-competence and self-efficacy, when compared with healthy individuals and there is also a clear relationship between the prevalence of a mental health disorder and the reported severity of the skin disease. 1,2,3

Psychological stress and AD symptoms seem to form a vicious cycle. However, the exact mechanism as to how stress affects AD is as yet largely unknown. Evidence suggests that stress stimulates the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis releasing neuropeptides and neurotrophins, which influence the development and course of AD, inducing epidermal barrier dysfunction, and lowering the itch threshold.4

Atopic_1

The current incidence of psychiatric disorders among dermatological patients is estimated at about 30-40% and the association between anxiety and depression, and AD is well documented in scientific and medical journals.1,2,3 AD and clinical depression interact closely, and causal relationships between the two conditions have frequently been observed; e.g. the onset or exacerbation of AD often follows stressful life events such as severe disease in a family member, divorce, or parental separation.5

This may reflect the psychological distress produced by both the stigma associated with visible AD skin lesions and the unpredictability of disease flares, and may be manifested by the high proportion of patients (approx. 60%) who reported being embarrassed by or self-conscious of their skin condition in various studies. The psychological burden can further negatively impact mood and QoL. Thoughts of suicide have been reported in 15% of patients in an AD population in Europe and up to 20% of individuals with severe disease.3

In Dermatology Life Quality Index (DQLI) questionnaires, approximately 46% AD patients report severe pruritus (itch) with almost 15% rating it as unbearable, 86% experience itching every day and approx. 42% state that they itch up to 18 hours per day. Nearly all patients also reported the frequent occurrence of bleeding, oozing, cracking, flaking, or drying of their skin. AD and itching has a significant impact on patient-reported sleep with approx. 68% of patients reporting that itch delayed falling asleep and occasionally or frequently woke them up at night, with up to 36% reporting that their sleep was disturbed every night. Loss of sleep may contribute to daytime sleepiness and fatigue, further reducing functional activities and adversely affecting mood and QoL due to the fact that sleep likely has a reciprocal relationship with mental health.3

Children with AD face a slightly different set of challenges and often have negative self-esteem (subjective perception of self-worth) and poor self-image (subjective perception of abilities, appearance). They experience frustration, fussiness, irritability, unhappiness, loneliness, self-consciousness and emotional sensitivity. Parents have reported that their AD children often cry, and are nervous and insecure. Researchers observed perfectionism, rigid and obsessive thought patterns, anxiety and depression, obsessive and compulsive traits in paediatric AD patients. Children with AD also have difficulties in social interaction and impaired social competence.6

Atopic_2

Sixty percent of children with AD experience sleep disturbance caused by their disease, with 83% reporting sleep disturbance during exacerbations. The sleep of children with eczema was characterized by problems with settling and maintaining sleep while their daytime functioning was characterized by excessive daytime sleepiness and higher ADHD and Oppositional Behaviour scores as well as poor performance in daytime activities, specifically school performance.6 Problematic behavioural patterns that include hyperactivity, impaired attention, scratching to get attention; stubbornness, aggressiveness, disruptive and oppositional behaviour have been documented. A significant association was found between Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and AD. It is suggested that these behavioural difficulties are possibly mediated by disturbed sleeping patterns, difficulty in coping with the discomfort of AD and its treatment, disfigurement, stigmatisation and disciplinary challenges.7

Various studies have consistently indicated an association between AD and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and ADHD which is independent of environmental exposures and other comorbidities. Particularly infant AD appears to be associated with later development of ADHD symptoms. Children with previous or prevalent AD have an approximately 43 % increased risk to be diagnosed with ADHD or to display clinical ADHD symptoms.8, 9

It has been speculated that ADHD/ASD symptoms, AD, food hypersensitivity and sleep disruption may be linked by shared pathophysiological factors and that these impairments are characterized by a relevant developmental interplay, especially in early infancy and childhood. Disturbed sleep is a characteristic feature of ASD/ADHD and eczema and may be one mediating factor in the observed associations. However, other mechanisms may also be involved such as genetic or neuro-immunomodulatory mechanisms. It has been suggested that the non-allergic activation of TH1 and TH17 cells, which mediate the inflammatory processes, may be of relevance in the association between AD and ADHD. Also excessive cytokine release may impact on the central nervous system as they are able to pass the blood–brain barrier, thus possibly affecting both neurotransmission and brain circuits which are known to be involved in ADHD and/or affecting the sleep–wake rhythm.8, 9

Recent studies have also linked sleep disturbance to obesity and hypertension (blood pressure PB) in children.  The long-term effect of increased BP are unknown in children, but it is possible that cumulative increases of BP are associated with cardiovascular disease later in life, similar to that observed in psoriasis. The mechanism of association between obesity and AD remains unknown. Previous studies have suggested that adipose (fat) tissue may directly influence the risk of AD. 10  The association between AD and in particular, central obesity – where excessive fat is stored around the stomach and abdomen, in particular, is of major concern. Central obesity has previously been reported to have particularly harmful effects on a variety of medical disorders, including asthma, dyslipidemia, diabetes, coronary artery disease, and myocardial infarction.

 

Also read our BLOGS – Stress, Anxiety, Depression – Atopic Eczema (AE)/Atopic Dermatitis (AD) and associated Itch

Stressed About Your Skin Condition – Identify Your Stressors and Your Stress Responses 

REFERENCES

  • Lewis-Jones S. (2006), Quality of life and childhood atopic dermatitis: the misery of living with childhood eczema. International Journal of Clinical Practice, 60: 984–992. doi:10.1111/j.1742-1241.2006.01047.x
  • Mina, Shaily et al. “Gender Differences in Depression and Anxiety Among Atopic Dermatitis Patients.”Indian Journal of Dermatology 2 (2015): 211.PMC. Web. 20 Oct. 2016.
  • Simpson M.I. et al.; Patient burden of moderate to severe atopic dermatitis (AD): Insights from a phase 2b clinical trial of dupilumab in adults; J AM ACAD DERMATOL MARCH 2016
  • Sang Ho Oh et al.; Association of Stress with Symptoms of Atopic Dermatitis; Acta Derm Venereol 2010 Preview
  • Sewon Kim er al.; The Association between Atopic Dermatitis and Depressive Symptoms in Korean Adults: The Fifth Korea National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 2007–2012; Korean J Fam Med 2015;36:261-265
  • Gouws A.; The Impact Of Atopic Dermatitis On The Psycho-Social Wellbeing Of Children And Their Families; Current Allergy & Clinical Immunology, March 2016, Vol 29, No 1
  • Camfferman D et al.; Eczema, Sleep, and Behavior in Children; Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, Vol. 6, No. 6, 2010
  • Schmitt J. et. Al.; Association of atopic eczema and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder – meta-analysis of epidemiologic studies; Zeitschrift für Kinder- und Jugendpsychiatrie und Psychotherapie (2015), 41, pp. 35-44. DOI: 10.1024/1422-4917/a000208
  • Tzu-Chu Liao et al.; Comorbidity of Atopic Disorders with Autism Spectrum Disorder and Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder; The Journal of pediatrics · February 2016 DOI: 10.1016/j.jpeds.2015.12.063
  • Silverberg J. I. et al.; Central Obesity and High Blood Pressure in Pediatric Patients With Atopic Dermatitis; JAMA Dermatology February 2015 Volume 151, Number 2

Itch (Pruritus) & Eczema

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Scratching is the natural response to itch (Pruritus) and, by definition, inseparable from it. The act of scratching not only diminishes itch, but it has been found to be rewarding and addictive. The itch-scratch cycle is a complex phenomenon involving sensory, motor and emotional components. The urge to scratch can be remarkably intense because the reward provided by scratching brings such intense relief and may also be associated feelings of pleasure and enjoyment. Recent studies have shown that rating scratching as a pleasurable experience is correlated with the intensity of the underlying itch, both in patients with chronic itch and healthy individuals.1 Various functional brain imaging studies have discovered that the itch-scratch cycle in humans can be tracked to specific regions of the brain, including areas related to reward, pain sensation, and addiction.1,2

The Itch-Scratch-Rash cycle is commonly used to describe this ongoing, never ceasing, always constant itch that makes eczema very different from many other skin condition. Eczema has often been called the “Itch that Rashes” rather than the “Rash that Itches”.3 

Itch_1

The itchier a patient feels, the more scratching of the skin that occurs and which ultimately lead to skin damage and the appearance of a red rash. Often, in chronic presentations it becomes a completely unconscious habit and patients are often not even aware that they are scratching. When a patient scratches, the skin becomes inflamed, this inflammation then causes the skin to itch even more, thus making it even harder for the patient to resist the urge to scratch. This vicious circle can become so severe that it causes sleeplessness, irritability, anxiety and stress. In extreme cases it can lead to significant excoriations (open, bloody and deep scratch wounds) on the skin or even severe lichenification (thickening of the skin) and pain. 

The Practitioner and Patient need to recognize and address various aspects of itch, including:

(1) Identification and elimination of trigger factors;

(2) Maintaining the skin barrier through emollients – Oil based and Water Based;

(3) Targeting inflammation through topical medications and systemic (oral) medications

(4) Addressing psychological and behavioural components; and

(5) Education – understanding the condition.

The sensation of pruritus can be triggered by endogenous (internal) and exogenous (external) stimuli, which activate specific peripheral nerve endings in the epidermis and dermis layers of the skin.3

Trigger Factors3

Allergies                                   House dust mites, food allergens, air-born contact dermatitis (pollen, etc.), animals (e.g. cat                                                        dander), jewellery, certain cosmetic ingredients.

Infections                                 Staphylococcus aureus, viral infections (herpes, molluscum), yeasts (eg, Trichophyton,                                                                malassezia).

Exogenous                               Soaps, solvents, wool, sweat, chemicals, toxins, cigarette smoke, smog.

Physical stimuli                       Temperature: humidity, cold dry air, clothes rubbing on the skin.

Emotional                                Anxiety/Stress /Anger/ Depression.

How to rate your Itch4

Based on the Eppendorf  Itch Questionnaire.

Rate each of the following from 0 to 4

The following describes your Itch………

  0 1 2 3 4
  Painful          
  Pulsating          
  Throbbing          
  Prickling          
  Hurting          
  Tickling          
  Stinging          
  Worse when Cold          
  Less when Cold          
  Worse when Hot          
  Less when Hot          
  Dull          
  Sharp          
  Burning          
  Feels like ants          
  Comes in waves          
  Unbearable          
  Annoying          
  Physical urge to scratch          
  Numbing          
  Relentless          
  Cruel          
  Tormenting          
  Tiring          
  Numbing          
  Severe          
  Uncontrollable          
  I only can think of the Itch          

When do you feel the need to Itch?

  0 1 2 3 4
  In the Morning          
  In the Evening          
  At night          
  At rest          
  Worse in Bed          
  After a hot shower          
  After exercise          
  After being outside          
  After being in the Sun          
  After gardening          
  After Dusting, Sweeping/Vacuuming/ Changing beds          
  After eating certain foods

  Specify

         

How would you describe the need to Scratch?

  0 1 2 3 4
  I find it enjoyable          
  It is a physical urge          
  It is compulsive          
  I forget when I do it          
  I always want to scratch          
  I find it satisfying          
  I find it pleasurable          
  It hurts but I cannot stop          
  Other –          

What action do you take when you feel the urge to scratch?

  0 1 2 3 4
  I rub          
  I scratch with my nails          
  I scratch with my fingertips          
  I scratch with my knuckles          
  I use a pencil/pen/ruler/stick          
  I rub          
  I pinch          
  I use a cold pack          
  I use a heat pack          
  I take a cold shower          
  I take a warm shower          
  I take a hot shower          
  I put the air conditioner on          
  I turn down the ducted heating          
  I dig my fingernails in          
  I bite my lip          
  I scratch until I bleed          
  I apply pressure          
  Other –          

Which areas of the body do you scratch the most?

                              Front                                                           Back

What distracts you from the urge to scratch?

  0 1 2 3 4
  Company distracts me          
  Watching Television          
  Reading a Book          
  Using a Computer/IPhone/IPad          
  Listening to music          
  Applying heat pack          
  Applying ice pack          
  Exercising          
  Doing something with my hands   (hobby)          
  Other –          

When you understand your itch, when you itch, what you do when you scratch and what distract you from scratching, you may be able to plan your approach to your itch more methodically and with more control. You may decide that you need to start a meditation or behavioural therapy class to help you control the need to scratch. You may find that you will learn the best times to apply your creams so that you circumvent the urge to scratch e.g. applying creams before gardening or mowing the lawn or doing housework etc.

What can a Patient do to avoid or control the urge to itch?

Scratching is difficult to resist because it gives the mental impression of easing the itch – but this is only for the short-term. Eventually the sensation to itch comes back – even worse that before you scratched. 

Basic tips to control the urge to itch:- 

  • Keep nails short to avoid tearing the skin when scratching. 
  • Keep cool. Over-heating can trigger the itch. Try to keep your body temperature as constant as you can, wear light layers of cotton clothes.
  • Avoid overheated rooms, keep ducted heating to a minimum, and at night keep the bedrooms cold.
  • Avoid heavy blankets and doonas – use cotton blankets if possible. 
  • Gently rub with the back of the fingers, place pressure or gently pinch the area instead of scratching. 
  • Use a cold compress 

Parents of children often ask “How can I stop my child from scratching?” And as scratching is an instinctive reaction to itching which can become a compulsive/unconscious habit, that question is not an easy one to answer. Parents can help by keeping their child’s nails short and, especially at night, by covering their hands with cotton mittens. 

With older children, it is important that you explain to them how scratching will actually make them feel worse, not better. And that their skin will become redder, more cracked and feel itchier and sorer. 

Become aware of any habits of scratching that your or your child may be developing and take especial note as whether it is at a particular time of day, or during a particular activity, such as playing sport or just watching television. If you or the parents of a child become aware of these types of habits then it is important to try to break the habit.

Nonpharmacological Treatments for the Management of Atopic Dermatitis Itch

 Cognitive-behavioural methods3,5,6

Cognitive-behavioural methods alter dysfunctional habits by interrupting and altering dysfunctional thought patterns (cognitions) or actions (behaviours) that damage the skin or interfere with dermatologic therapy. e.g. Itch-coping Training Programme or Habit Reversal Training, cognitive-behavioural methods for the reduction of itch and scratching behaviour, including self-monitoring, guidance in skin care and coping skills to manage itch- and scratch-triggering factors, stress-management methods with relaxation techniques and habit reversal. The habit reversal technique teaches patients to recognize the habit of scratching, identify situations that provoke scratching, and train them to develop a competing response practice, for example, a child who unconsciously scratches can be taught to recognize the early signs of the sensation of itch and instead of scratching be taught to clench his/her fists or place his/her hands underneath his/her legs as soon as they feel the sensation of itch.

Biofeedback5,7

Biofeedback can enhance the patient’s awareness of tension and help them to relax; improving skin disorders that flare with stress or that have an autonomic nervous system aspect. Biofeedback is a mind-body therapy that uses electronic instruments to assist patients to gain awareness and control over psychophysiological processes. The patient is connected to a machine that measures muscle activity, skin temperature, electrodermal activity, respiration, heart rate, heart rate variability, blood pressure, brain electrical activity, and brain blood flow and visually gives the patient feedback as they go through various “game” like tasks. Chronic itch, which may be somatic, emotional and cognitive, may be treated with therapies that can modulate the autonomic nervous system stress response. Behavioural biofeedback techniques that reduce stress and anxiety have been used to treat chronic pain and itch and could potentially alter the sympathetic over-activity noted in patients with AD.

Hypnosis / Meditation8

With proper training, an individual can intensify this trance state in himself or herself and use this heightened focus to induce mind-body interactions that help alleviate suffering or promote healing. The state of altered consciousness known as a “trance state” may be induced using guided imagery, relaxation, deep breathing, meditation techniques, self-hypnosis or by a trained medical practitioner. Researchers have used relaxation, stress management, direct suggestion for non-scratching behaviour, direct suggestion for skin comfort and coolness, ego strengthening, posthypnotic suggestions, and instruction in self-hypnosis. Their results were statistically significant for reduction in itch, scratching, sleep disturbance, and tension. Reported topical corticosteroid use decreased by 40% at 4 weeks, 50% at 8 weeks, and 60% at 16 weeks. For milder cases of atopic dermatitis, hypnosis along with moisturization can suffice as a primary alternative treatment. For more extensive or resistant atopic dermatitis, hypnosis can be a useful complementary therapy that reduces the amounts required of other conventional treatments.

Read also our Blogs for Psoriasis …. The same techniques can be used for Eczema

Simple Mental/Mind Relaxation Techniques Part 1 – For Psoriasis Patients

Simple Mental/Mind Relaxation Techniques Part 2 – For Psoriasis Patients

Itch_4 Itch_5 Itch_6

References

 

  • Papoiu A. D. P. et al.; Brain’s Reward Circuits Mediate Itch Relief. A Functional MRI Study of Active Scratching; PLOS ONE, www.plosone.org 1 December 2013, Volume 8, Issue 12, e82389
  • Mochizuki H. et al.; Chapter 23Brain Processing of Itch and Scratching; http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK200933/?report=printable
  • Hong J. et al.; Management of Itch in Atopic Dermatitis; Seminars in Cutaneous Medicine and Surgery; Elsivier; doi:10.1016/j.sder.2011.05.002; Pg 71-88
  • Darsow U. et al.; New Aspects of Itch Pathophysiology: Component Analysis of Atopic Itch Using the ‘Eppendorf Itch Questionnaire’; Int Arch Allergy Immunol 2001;124:326–331
  • Shenefelt PD.; Psychological interventions in the management of common skin conditions; Psychology Research and Behavior Management 2010:3 51–63
  • Evers Et al.; Effectiveness of a Multidisciplinary Itch-coping Training Programme in Adults with Atopic Dermatitis; Acta Derm Venereol 2009; 89: 57–63
  • Tran BW. Et al.; Effect of Itch, Scratching and Mental Stress on Autonomic Nervous System Function in Atopic Dermatitis; Acta Derm Venereol 2010; 90: 354–361
  • Shenefelt PD. ;Hypnosis in Dermatology; Arch Dermatol / VOL 136, MAR 2000

 

PSORIASIS and SMOKING

skinconditionsblogcategory

Tobacco smoke contains numerous chemicals that exert inflammatory effects on the human body. Recent studies suggest that cigarette smoking may trigger the development of psoriasis through oxidative, inflammatory and genetic mechanisms. Smoking initiates formation of free radicals that stimulate cell signalling pathways active in psoriasis. Smoking damages the skin by increasing formation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and decreasing the gene expression of antioxidants. Nicotine also stimulates innate immune cells integral to the pathogenesis of psoriasis. This perpetuates a cycle of chronic inflammation. Smoking also enhances expression of genes known to increase the risk of psoriasis.1,2,5

Research has found that increased smoking intensity corresponds to a higher risk of developing severe psoriasis whilst  longer cumulative duration of smoking (pack-years) increases the likelihood of developing psoriasis. The study also demonstrated a graded increase in psoriasis risk with increasing exposure to passive smoke.                              

In one study, researchers investigated the associations between smoking status, quantity,duration, and cessation and exposure to environmental tobacco smoke and the risk of incident psoriasis in a total population of 185,836 participants from the Nurses’ Health Study (NHS), the Nurses’ Health Study II (NHS II), and Health Professionals’ Follow-up Study (HPFS). They reported that in the NHS, 20% of the cases of incident psoriasis might have been prevented by the elimination of smoking. Similarly, the population-attributable risk was 15% in the NHS II and 19% in the HPFS. For all participants, 17.5% of the incidents of psoriasis were attributable to having ever smoked. Evidence from past association studies seemed to indicate a stronger association between smoking and psoriasis in women than in men.3

Research has also shown that the risk increases with the number of cigarettes smoked daily. Studies have shown that smoking more than 10 cigarettes per day by men who are psoriasis patients may be associated with a more severe expression of disease in their extremities. In addition, smoking among both men and women who are psoriasis patients has been shown to reduce improvement rates and hence difficulty in achieving remission during treatment.4 In a multicentre case-control study of 404 psoriasis patients and 616 controls, the risk for psoriasis was higher in smokers compared with non-smokers, and the association with smoking was stronger and more consistent among women than men. A particularly strong association was also found between smoking more than 15 cigarettes per day and Palmoplantar Pustular Psoriasis (PPP). Several observational and case-control studies have demonstrated up to 94% prevalence of tobacco use in patients with PPP.6 

Smoking

As tobacco smoking also interferes with the bodies immunity by allowing colonization by perio -dontopathic bacteria and by acting as a local irritant, researchers have hypothesized that smoking may act as a trigger or permissive factor of periodontal disease in patients suffering from psoriasis. In order to test this hypothesis, the prevalence and severity of periodontal disease, Researchers assessed a group of smoking and non-smoking psoriasis patients and a group of smoking and non-smoking psoriasis-free controls. In this study it was statistically shown that psoriasis patients who smoke are at an approximately sixfold higher risk of developing severe periodontal disease, as compared to psoriasis patients who do not smoke.7

Another interesting observation was the frequent coexistence of a smoking habit and alcohol consumption in patients with psoriasis. In the literature, alcohol consumption has been described as a factor responsible for triggering psoriasis, but it is said that smoking increases the risk of the onset of the disease. Previous studies have indicated that smokers who drink are twice as likely to develop the disease as non-smokers and non-drinkers.8,9

It is well recognized that stress and anxiety acts in both the initiation and exacerbation of psoriasis. Psychosocial stressors include acute negative life events or chronic strains and have been implicated as risk factors for tobacco use. Psychological stress may influence smoking behaviour (e.g., initiation, maintenance, and relapse) through a number of mechanisms. Specifically, smoking may function as a coping behaviour, whereby nicotine is used to self-medicate in response to stress; it is also possible that exposure to stress may result in diminished self-regulation to control the urge to smoke. Previous observational studies illustrate that acute stressful events and greater exposure to chronic stressors (e.g., related to work, finances, or relationships) are associated with higher smoking prevalence compared to persons who did not experience these stressors.10

So in summary, studies suggest that cigarette smoking may trigger the development of psoriasis through oxidative, inflammatory and genetic mechanisms. Furthermore, smoking is associated with the clinical severity of psoriasis. Smoking also contributes to higher morbidity and mortality from smoking related disorders in these patients. It is, therefore, advisable, if possible to quit smoking, or at the very least, keep your smoking to a minimum, preferably under 10 cigarettes a day. Try to adopt other mechanisms to cope with your stress and anxiety and it is suggested that you read our other blogs on “Simple Physical and Mental Relaxation Techniques”.  Using these techniques you may be able to reduce your stress and anxiety levels and this may allow you to cut down on the number of cigarettes you smoke.

Also read our blog “Psoriasis and Alcohol Intake”, “Stress, Anxiety, Depression and Psoriasis”, “Stressed about Psoriasis – Identify Your Stressors and Yours Stress Responses”, “Simple Physical Relaxation Techniques for Psoriasis Patients” and  “Simple Mental/Mind Relaxation Techniques Part 1 and Part 2”

REFERENCES

  • Armstrong AW, Armstrong EJ, Fuller EN, et al. Smoking and pathogenesis of psoriasis. Br J Dermatol 2011; 165: 1162-8.
  • Al-Rubaii A, Al-Ward N, Al-Waiz M. The age of onset of psoriasis and its relationship to smoking habits and stressful life events. Saudi Med J2003; 24:108.
  • Wenqing Li et al.; Smoking and Risk of Incident Psoriasis Among Women and Men in the United States: A Combined Analysis; American Journal of Epidemiology Advance Access published January 12, 2012; http://aje.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2012/01/11/aje.kwr325.full.pdf+html
  • Behnam SM,Behnam SE, Koo JY.; Smoking and psoriasis.; Skinmed. 2005 May-Jun;4(3):174-6.
  • Armstrong AW, ; Psoriasis and smoking: a systematic review and meta-analysis; British Journal of DermatologyVolume 170, Issue 2, Article first published online: 18 FEB 2014
  • Freiman A. et al.; Cutaneous Effects of Smoking; Journal of Cutaneous Medicine and Surgery Volume 8 Number 6 December 2004
  • Antal M. et al.; Smoking as a Permissive Factor of Periodontal Disease in Psoriasis; PLOS ONE | www.plosone.org; March 2014 | Volume 9 | Issue 3 | e92333
  • Agnieszka B. Owczarczyk-Saczonek , Roman Nowicki; The association between smoking and the prevalence of metabolic syndrome and its components in patients with psoriasis aged 30 to 49 years; Postep Derm Alergol 2015; XXXII (5): 331–336 DOI: 10.5114/pdia.2015.54743
  • Naldi L, Peli L, Parazzini F. Association of early-stage psoriasis with smoking and male alcohol consumption: evidence from an Italian case-control study. Arch Dermatol1999; 135:1479–84.
  • Slopen N. et al.; Psychosocial stress and cigarette smoking persistence, cessation, and relapse over 9–10 years: a prospective study of middle-aged adults in the United States; Cancer Causes Control DOI 10.1007/s10552-013-0262-5

Stress, Anxiety, Depression – Atopic Eczema (AE)/Atopic Dermatitis (AD) and associated Itch

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Atopic dermatitis may be caused by genetic predisposition and environmental conditions, including hereditary factors, allergens, and neurogenous (arising from the nervous system, or from some lesion of the nervous system) and immunological factors. However, the major contributing cause remains unknown. AD may cause psychosocial problems such as anxiety, depression, sleep disorders, emotional excitability, stigmatization, social isolation, and discrimination and on the other hand, all of these factors may also contribute to and exacerbate the symptoms of AD. Of the many factors related to atopic dermatitis, psychological stress is considered to be among the most important.1

 The psychological, physical and social impact of AD is complex and varies among different ages. The relationship of stress, anxiety, depression, not to mention feelings of stigma, shame, embarrassment, and low self-esteem all impact upon a person who is suffering from a skin condition such as AD. Research has confirmed that adults with AD exhibit high levels of anxiety, depression, and emotional excitability. Children with AD also have higher levels of emotional distress and more behavioral problems than healthy children or children with minor skin problems. Psychosocial factors contributed in the form of exacerbating factors in as high as 94% of AD hospitalized patients. Clinically, it has long been appreciated that both acute stress (stressful life events) and chronic psycho-emotional stress can trigger or enhance pruritus.2, 3, 4,5

Pruritus, or itching, is a main symptom of AD and is often one of the first presenting symptoms.

Itching leads to scratching, which leads to and exacerbates the skin lesions.

  • AD has been referred to as the “itch that rashes.”
  • The cycle of itching and scratching is considered an important factor in the maintenance of AD symptoms and is believed to be one of the first symptoms of an impending AD flare.
  • Scratching tends to cause further itching, leading to the so-called “itch-scratch cycle.” 6

Results of one study found that in patients with AD the itching intensity played an important role in determining the patient psychosocial well-being and that a relationship between pruritus and depression was also found.6

 Scratching often begins automatically in association with stress and emotions, and becomes habitual, being performed many times every day. In addition to the psychological factors, such as anger, irritation, impatience, relief, anxiety, etc., many patients say that they somehow find themselves scratching even when they do not feel itchy. Research has identified that habitual scratching is involved in the formation of the lesions of AD. The scratching is patterned, with the rash exhibiting a bilaterally symmetrical distribution over the back and normal skin remaining in the middle where the hands cannot reach, producing a “butterfly” sign. The prominent red face can also be explained by this scratching behavior.4

 This vicious cycle can cause sleeplessness in over 65% of AD sufferers leading to sleep deprivation which leads to tiredness, mood changes and impaired psychosocial functioning of the sufferer and their family, particularly at school and work. Embarrassment, comments, teasing and bullying frequently cause social isolation and may lead to depression or school/work avoidance. The sufferer’s lifestyle is often limited, particularly in respect to clothing, holidays, staying with friends, owning pets, swimming or the ability to play or do sports. For parents caring for a child with eczema, restriction of normal family life, difficulties with complicated treatment regimens causing an increased work load together with disturbed sleep can lead to parental exhaustion and feelings of hopelessness, guilt, anger and depression. And so the whole family is impacted by the condition.5,6,7

Research has suggested that some AD patients might benefit from certain psychological interventions: patients showing psychological characteristics that comprises high depression, low agreeableness and high public self-consciousness would probably benefit from psychological interventions, such as cognitive restructuring, anger management and self-assertiveness training, because these interventions might be able to modulate the extent of the personality characteristics that are associated with induced itch.8

Recent emerging research indicates that mindfulness meditation training may have beneficial effects across a spectrum of health conditions, but the mechanisms linking mindfulness meditation training with health are unknown. One striking feature of the mindfulness training literature to-date is that mindfulness training effects on disease outcomes have been observed in diseases where stress is known to trigger the onset or exacerbation of disease symptoms and pathogenesis (e.g., HIV, psoriasis, depression, pain, chronic inflammation).9   Research has indicated that relaxation techniques appear to be helpful in the treatment of patients suffering from chronic itch in patients that are open to it. And it is becoming a standard recommendation by many Practitioners and hospitals that relaxation training be considered clinically in patients who report that their itch increases during periods of heightened stress.10

The challenge for sufferers of AD is, with the aim of improving their quality of life, to help themselves to find, together with their practitioner, the best personal treatment plan and then sticking to it. The main challenges in the effective management of AD, comes down to patient adherence to the treatment plan and their emotional resilience.

 

References

  • Kwon1 J.A. et al.; Does Stress Increase the Risk of Atopic Dermatitis in Adolescents? Results of the Korea Youth Risk Behavior Web-Based Survey (KYRBWS-VI); PLOS ONE, www.plosone.org; August 2013, Volume 8, Issue 8, e67890
  • Han-Ting Wei et al.; Risk of developing major depression and bipolar disorder among adolescents with atopic diseases: A nationwide longitudinal study in Taiwan; Journal of Affective Disorders 203 (2016) 221–226
  • Buske KIrschbaum Hellhammer et al.,; Endocrine and immune responses to stress in chronic inflammatory skin disorders; 992. 231-240 (2003)
  • Sang Ho Oh et al.; Association of Stress with Symptoms of Atopic Dermatitis; Acta Derm Venereol 2010; 90: 582–588. The Journal of Clinical Investigation; http://www.jci.org; Volume 116, Number 5, May 2006
  • Kamide R.; Atopic Dermatitis: Psychological Care; Journal of the Japan Medical Association (Vol. 126, No. 1, 2001, pages 59–62).
  • Brown T.M. et al.; Assessing Pruritus Among Patients With Atopic Dermatitis: Targeted Literature and Instrument Review; https://www.rtihs.org/sites/default/files/Brown_isporposter_May2012.pdf
  • Lewis-Jones S. Quality of life and childhood atopic dermatitis: the misery of living with childhood eczema. Int J Clin Pract. 2006;60(8):984-992.
  • Schut C. et al.; Personality Traits, Depression and Itch in Patients with Atopic Dermatitis in an Experimental Setting: A Regression Analysis; Acta Derm Venereol 2014; 94: 20–25
  • Creswell J.D. et al.; Brief mindfulness meditation training alters psychological and neuroendocrine responses to social evaluative stress; Psychoneuroendocrinology (2014) 44, 1—12
  • Schut C. et al.; Psychological Interventions in the Treatment of Chronic Itch; Acta Derm Venereol 2015 Preview

What triggers Psoriasis?

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Psoriasis is a chronic inflammatory skin disorder and whilst the exact causes of psoriasis have yet to be discovered, the immune system and genetics are known to play major roles in its development. The immune system is somehow mistakenly triggered, which speeds up the growth cycle of skin cells among other immune reactions1.

Researchers show that whether a person develops psoriasis or not may depend on a “trigger”2. These Primary Triggers activate the condition.

Possible Primary triggers include:

Koebner Phenomenon Skin Injury e.g. animal bites, burns, electrodesiccation, excoriation, freezing, friction, gunshot wounds, insect bites, lacerations, nail manicuring, Poor fitting shoes, pressure, shaving, surgical grafts, surgical incision, tape stripping, thumb sucking, x-rays, sunburn, tattoos (injury).

……. burned-skin-1556804 FreeImagesmosquito-bite-3-1410910 FreeImagestattoo-in-flame-1187558 FreeImages injury-1182660 FreeImages

Stress anxiety, depression, psychological illnesses e.g. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Certain medicines e.g.:-pills-1422509 Free Images
Anti-malarial– e.g. Doxycycline, chloroquine
– Lithium– depression or psychiatric disorders
– ACE Inhibitors- High blood pressure medication
– Anti-inflammatory medicine – e.g. ibuprofen or Indomethacin
– Beta blockers – taken by patients with heart failure
– Corticosteroids– Prescribed for a variety of health conditions. Sudden discontinuation of  relatively high   doses can be a trigger.

Infectionsin some people, usually children and young adults, a form of psoriasis called guttate psoriasis develops after a streptococcal throat infection (note: most people who have streptococcal throat infections will not develop psoriasis), upper respiratory infections such as such as streptococcal pharyngitis or sinusitis. People with weakened immune systems; such as HIVpatients, are more susceptible to psoriasis.

There are also a number of Secondary Triggers, and these exacerbate the condition once it has been activated, and will continue to worsen the condition. They are:-

Triggers

  • Consumption of alcohol
  • Smoking
  • Chemical exposure 
  • Hormones
  • Weather – exposure to cold
  • Adverse foods 

Not all psoriasis sufferers will react to all of the above triggers, so the best thing to do is to record consumption of foods, liquids etc., how you slept, what stresses you were under and any exposure to chemicals and other environmental triggers and at the same time monitor your symptoms e.g. increases itch, irritability, new lesions or worsening of existing lesions etc. Note that some triggers e.g. skin injuries may not show a flare-up up for up to 10 to 14 days after a triggering event, so if you noticed that you were bitten by mosquitos or insects record it with the date and then take note of any subsequent delayed flare ups.

REFERENCES

  1. Višnja Milavec-Pureti? et al.; Drug Induced Psoriasis; Acta Dermatovenerol Croat 2011;19(1):39-42
  2. Kuchekar A.B. et al.; Psoriasis: A comprehensive review; Int. J. of Pharm. & Life Sci. (IJPLS), Vol. 2, Issue 6: June: 2011, 857-877 857

PSORIASIS and ALCOHOL INTAKE

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The course of psoriasis is chronic and over a period of time the condition may be severe and commonly causes emotional problems, which in themselves may lead to relief drinking.1

Psoriasis Alcohol_1Patients with psoriasis experience considerable emotional distress, depression and social isolation due to the visibility of skin lesions, especially when the lesions are widespread and severe. Whilst it would be demeaning to state that all psoriasis patients with mild to severe psoriasis suffer from alcoholism, it has been confirmed in several Quality of Life studies that the percentage of psoriasis patients who admit to having a drinking problem may be as high as 32%. That said, the association between alcohol consumption and increased risk of psoriasis onset and psoriasis worsening has long been suspected.

Alcohol potentially weakens the immune response making psoriasis patients more susceptible to bacterial infections and injuries, which in turn can trigger and exacerbate psoriasis. Case studies have shown a definite connection between high consumption of alcohol and increased severity of psoriasis. Patients with severe psoriasis who misuse alcohol often show improvement after months of abstention or significant reduction in their alcohol intake. Patients who have abstained, improved and then gone on to have a binge drinking session, also experienced more severe flare-ups of their psoriasis upon resumption of drinking.1,2,3 It has also been shown that high alcohol intake is more problematic in the male population than in women.4

Alcohol_1Interestingly in a study of US women, researchers found that the risk for psoriasis varied according to the amount and type of alcoholic beverage consumed. “Non-light beer was the only alcoholic beverage that increased the risk for psoriasis, suggesting that certain non-alcoholic components of beer, which are not found in wine or liquor, may play an important role in new onset psoriasis. One of these components may be the starch-source used in making beer. Beer is one of the few non-distilled alcoholic beverages that use a starch-source for fermentation, which is commonly barley. This differs from wine that uses a fruit-source (grapes) for fermentation. Some types of liquors such as vodka may use a starch-source for fermentation; however these starches are physically separated from the liquor during distillation. Starch sources such as barley contain gluten, which has been shown to be associated with psoriasis. For example, individuals with psoriasis have elevated levels of anti-gliadin antibodies (AgA) and may have a so called ‘latent-gluten sensitivity’ compared to individuals without psoriasis.” 5

This is not to say that other forms of alcohol are then, by default, safe as vodka and other spirits have been shown to increase the severity of psoriasis in other case studies. Alcohol also in general should not be consumed whilst taking various anti-psoriasis medications such as Methotrexate, Cyclosporine, and Acitretin.6

Alcohol also affects the pituitary gland, resulting in reduced secretions of the anti-diuretic hormone that maintains the body’s proper hydration level. More specifically, the kidneys are no longer able to reabsorb sufficient water from your urine, and your body ends up eliminating more water than it absorbs and the person becomes dehydrated. The symptoms of dehydration are fatigue, back and neck pain, increase itch and headaches.

There is still some controversy over safe levels of intake e.g. low and moderate, however, it is still considered prudent to restrict intake whilst on medication. It is certainly recommended for psoriasis patients to reduce or totally restrict alcohol intake, regardless of type, whilst their psoriasis is in a flare up. And when in remission to only consume low to moderate levels of alcohol. All forms of binge drinking should be abstained from.

f you are using alcohol as a crutch to cope with your emotional distress, general stress with work etc. or depression then please seek medical assistance. Also read our blog on “Psoriasis and Water Intake”, “Stress, Anxiety, Depression and Psoriasis” and “Stressed about Psoriasis – Identify Your Stressors and Yours Stress Responses”. Identifying and understanding your stress triggers and finding other ways to cope with your stress and anxiety can help you cut back on your alcohol intake.

REFERENCES

  1. Poikolainen K. Et Al.; Alcohol Intake: A Risk Factor For Psoriasis In Young And Middle Aged Men? ; Bmj Volume 300 24 March 1990
  2. Iva Dediol, Marija Buljan, Danijel Buljan, Vedrana Bulat, Maja Vurnek Živkovi? & Mirna Šitum: Association Of Psoriasis And Alcoholism: Psychodermatological Issue Psychiatria Danubina, 2009; Vol. 21, No. 1, Pp 9–13
  3. Captain G E Vincenti and Dr S M Blunden; Psoriasis and Alcohol Abuse; JR Army Med Corps 1987; 133: 77-78
  4. Zimmerman GM. Alcohol and Psoriasis: A Double Burden.Arch Dermatol.1999;135(12):1541-1542. doi:10.1001/archderm.135.12.1541.
  5. Qureshi AA, Dominguez PL, Choi HK, et al. Alcohol intake and risk of incident psoriasis in US women: a prospective study. Arch Dermatol146(12):1364–9 (2010 Dec).
  6. Vena GA. et al.;The effects of alcohol on the metabolism and toxicology of anti-psoriasis drugs.; Expert Opin. Drug Metab Toxicol. 2012 Aug;8(8):959-72. doi: 10.1517/17425255.2012.691166. Epub 2012 May 17.