ISLAMABAD: Increased psychological stress can exacerbate certain skin complaints but not pimples, according to a study.

College can be a time of increased psychological stress, especially given the complex social, academic and financial pressures faced by today's students.  Previous studies have suggested a link between stress and skin symptoms, but those studies were limited by small patient samples and by not using standardized tools.

Students who reported high stress levels suffered significantly more often from pruritus (itchy skin); alopecia (hair loss); oily, waxy or flaky patches on the scalp; hyperhidrosis (troublesome sweating); scaly skin; onychophagia (nail biting); itchy rash on hands; and trichotillomania (hair pulling).
There was no significant association between perceived psychological stress levels and the presence of pimples, dry/sore rash, warts and other rashes on the face.
The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) explain that alopecia is usually caused by hereditary factors but can be caused by a number of environmental factors, including lack of nutrients and certain medications - including some used for depression and hormonal imbalance.
According to the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), pruritis is an umbrella term for a number of dermatologic conditions, including some types of eczema and dermatitis. Pruritis is associated with histamine, which is released during an allergic response, but it can reflect an underlying systemic disease. It is often exacerbated by skin inflammation, dry or hot conditions, skin vasodilation and psychologic stressors.
Study limitations include low response rate and the fact that there was no physical assessment of respondents.
Dr. Yosipovitch adds that non-pharmacologic therapeutic interventions should perhaps be considered for patients presenting with both skin conditions and increased levels of psychological stress.