October 28, 2008

Study: Prolonged Stress Leads to Itching

Chronic stress can lead to skin irritation and persistent itching that leads to bothersome scratching, a Canadian neuroimmunologist reported in a study.

Dr. Petra Arck of McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, said her early research involved subjecting mice to stress in the form of lengthy bouts of unpleasant noise. She said a wave of immune cells moved into the mice's skin and made them itch, the Ottawa Citizen reported.

It was already known isolated incidents of stress mobilize disease-fighting cells in the skin, but Arck said her studies showed the process can go into overdrive and show up particularly in people with psoriasis or atopic dermatitis.

"It's definitely chronic stress and chronic stress to me is the accumulation of many acute (short-term) stressors," Arck said. "You may end up itching because there may be a chance of developing psoriasis or atopic dermatitis."

Her research was done along with the University of Medicine Berlin and is published in the American Journal of Pathology.