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Itchy skin psychologically stressful

Chronically itchy skin can take not only a physical toll but a psychological one as well, a new study suggests.

Itchy skin psychologically stressful

Chronically itchy skin can take not only a physical toll but a psychological one as well, a new study suggests.

Research has linked various skin conditions, such as severe acne, psoriasis and eczema, to higher risks of depression, anxiety and stress in some individuals. But it has not been clear whether chronic itchiness - a common symptom of skin disorders - can cause its own distress.

To evaluate the relationship between pruritus (chronically itchy skin) and psychological stress, researchers studied 2224 Japanese adults aged 18 years and above. The participants were asked to keep health diaries over one month and they completed a standard questionnaire called the Perceived Stress Scale, which measures, for instance, how often a person has felt nervous or stressed in the past month. Participants used the diaries to record the presence and severity of various symptoms, including itchiness.

It was found that participants with itchy skin had a higher average score on the stress scale than other participants did. And the more frequent the symptom, the higher the scores. The link between itchiness and stress was also seen among participants who had more than two health complaints. This suggests that itchiness itself has psychological effects independent of other health problems.

A number of skin conditions - including eczema, recurrent hives and psoriasis - are marked by sometimes intensely itchy skin. The current findings suggest that if the symptom is not well-controlled, it can be a source of psychological, as well as physical, hardship.
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