Allergy Symptoms with Stress and Anxiety Concord NC

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Allergy Symptoms with Stress and Anxiety

Stress and Anxiety Promote and Prolong Allergy Symptoms.
Date: Thursday, September 24, 2009
Source: Psychoneuroendocrinology
Related Monographs: Anxiety, Stress, Allergies
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Anxiety is an emotional state commonly caused by the perception of real or potential danger that threatens the security of the individual. Everyone experiences a certain amount of nervousness and apprehension when faced with a stressful situation. Usually, the response is reasonable and adaptive, and contains a built-in control mechanism to return to a normal physiologic state. It is when anxiety states become excessive or prolonged, particularly if it produces such psychological and physical stress that the patient cannot perform the activities of daily living, that medical help should be sought.

Stress refers to anything that disturbs an individual's physical, mental, or emotional equilibrium. The body has numerous stress response mechanisms and stress can affect the body in many different ways. In fact the same form of stress might cause one individual to get a migraine, a second person to have an ulcer attack, and a third to have elevated blood pressure. It is important to realize that stress is not all bad. Stress is a normal part of life. What really matters is how much stress, what kind of stress, and ultimately, how each individual handles his or her stresses. The signs and symptoms of stress are literally too numerous to mention. They can affect virtually any part of the body and produce physical as well as mental and emotional symptoms. In fact, the results of some studies report that 85 percent of diseases have stress-related factors. Thus, the entire body, and many disease states can be manifestations of stress.

Atopic allergies are characterized by degree of severity and the type of tissue affected. Anaphylactic reactions, the most severe form of allergic reaction, produces characteristic respiratory difficulty, shock, and urticaria. Allergic rhinitis (also known as hay fever), the most common manifestation of allergic reactions, is mediated by sensitized mast cells in the membranes of the nose and eyes. Nasal congestion and discharge, sneezing, itchy eyes, conjunctival edema and tearing are classic symptoms caused by airborne particles of dust, dander or plant pollen. People with a history of asthma or eczema are more likely to have allergic rhinitis. Urticaria, or hives, is a vascular reaction of the skin characterized by round, elevated patches (wheals) with severe itching. Hives are most often caused by a reaction to food or drugs. Hives occur in the superficial portion of the dermis. Angioedema is a similar reaction of the deep dermal or subcutaneous layers of the skin. Urticaria and angioedema may last for as long as six weeks.

Ohio State University researchers investigated how stress and anxiety can affect symptoms of allergic rhinitis. They recruited 28 men and women with allergic rhinitis (AR) and these volunteers were admitted twice to a hospital research unit for 4 hours in a crossover trial. For each session the participants were given a standard skin prick test several times to determine their reactions to various allergens. Blood, saliva and serum samples were taken before, after and several times during the trial. A number of psychological questionnaires were given to the participants to find their levels of stress and anxiety. Anxiety increased the magnitude of allergen-induced wheals following the stressor. Participants who were highly anxious had wheals that were twice as big after they were stressed compared to their response when they were not stressed.  Also, these same people were four times more likely to have a stronger reaction to the skin test one day later (known as late-phase reaction) after the stress. Late-phase reactions have the potential to be life-threatening. These results, suggested the researchers, should alert practitioners and patients to the adverse effects of stress on allergic reactions even though they seem to be resolved, the symptoms could reappear the next day when least expected. Researchers concluded that stress and anxiety can enhance and prolong AR symptoms.1

1 Kiecolt-Glaser JK, Heffner KL, Glaser R, et al. How stress and anxiety can alter immediate and late phase skin test responses in allergic rhinitis. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2009;34(5):670-8.

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