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Cause and Effect: Acne, a Visible Outbreak of Stress By Eric Nagourney
Acne has long been known to cause stress. Now, a new study offers evidence that has long been suspected – that stress causes acne – may also be true.
Researchers at Stanford put the question to the test by examining students with acne problems on two occasions: once during a relatively stress-free time and again during an exam period.
They also administered standardized questionnaires intended to assess stress levels.
The researchers, whose report appears in The Archives of Dermatology, found that “changes in acne severity correlate highly with increasing stress.”
For people who use acne medicine, the lesson may be to pay close attention to what is going on in their lives, said the senior researcher, Dr. Alexa B. Kimball. “If they know that a stressful time is coming up,” Dr. Kimball said, “ that’s an important time to be particularly compliant with their medicine.” Doctors treating acne patients may also want to take stressful conditions into account in deciding when to time a change in prescription, she said.
The findings are based on a study of 22 students – 15 men and 7 women – with serious acne problems. Acne affects 85 percent of the population at some point in life. Why stress may cause the skin to erupt is unclear. Some research suggests that it may provoke a greater release of hormones associated with acne. The researchers also looked at whether changes in peoples’ daily lives – in sleep, for example, or eating habits –played a role. Even when these were factored out, the study said, the students’ acne became worse. The role of stress in acne should not be surprising, Dr. Kimball said. She noted that some patients responded well to biofeedback, which is intended to reduce stress. Stress has also been linked to numerous other medical problems and has been shown to affect wound healing.
The New York Times nytimes.com August 5, 2003
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