STRESS & MEDICAL CONDITIONS


Stress has been known to have varying effects on medical conditions. In some cases, there are still ongoing studies to determine the effects of stress on different medical conditions. We will look at some clinical conditions and examine the role of stress on them.

ACNE

Acne is a skin infection and is popularly known as pimples. It is known that 85% of the population will develop Acne Vulgaris at one stage of life or the other. It is very common in teenagers but adults may also have outbreaks from time to time. The problem associated with this condition is that the resulting scar that remains after an outbreak. Studies have shown that stress or worry can precipitate or worsen acne outbreaks. It is believed that this happens because of the increased production of cortisol (stress hormones) and androgens which occur during periods of psychological stress. Corticotrophin-releasing factor, an important regulator of the body’s stress response, also has the ability to increase production of fatty secretions in the sebaceous glands found in the skin. Stress has been known to significantly reduce the body’s wound healing abilities which could cause a delay in the healing of acne outbreaks.

ALCOHOL

Studies and real-life situations have shown and proved that troubled or stressed individuals are prone to seeking succour in the bottle. These people are also known to seek recourse to smoking and eating junk food low in vitamin supplements and high in cholesterol. People drink in response to various types of stress and the amount of drinking in response to stress is related to the severity of the life stressors and the lack of social support from family or friends. Genetic variations influence the way our bodies respond to stress just as well as the influence of alcohol on stress varies from person to person. Research has thrown up conflicting results on this. Some studies show that alcohol in low doses may reduce the body’s response to stressors. Other studies, however, show that alcohol in low doses may actually stimulate the production of hormones produced by the body during the period of stress. It is believed that whatever relief or comfort obtained from the bottle is probably the transient escape it gives from immediate stressful situations and the “knockout” effect it induces.

LOW BACKPAIN

Research conducted at the University College, London, showed that people that go through a stressful period in their 20s are liable to developing back pain in their 30s. Interviews were conducted on 5,700 thirty-three-year-olds (both men and women) concerning various mental and physical symptoms. All the participants had been interviewed 10 years before at the age of 23. The participants who reported feeling psychological distress at age 23 were twice likely to develop low back pain between the ages of 32 and 33. The research did not specify what type of stress was associated with the back pain.

BRUXISM

Bruxism is the habit of grinding, clenching and grating the teeth. It involves any type of forceful contact between the teeth, whether silent or loud. People having this condition may not know they have this condition. It mostly happens when they are sleeping and may require a sleeping partner to alert them that they have this condition. Stress along with other conditions like anxiety, anger and certain sleeping disorders have been known to be associated with bruxism. Children may also have this condition in response to cold or infection. Children are more likely to develop it when it exists in their parents. The symptoms and signs associated with this condition include signs of tooth wear such as fracture of teeth or tooth filling, facial or jaw pains, headaches, loose teeth, gum damage and increased teeth sensitivity. This condition is managed through behaviour modification such as stress management, which may be the primary cause, and the use of mouth guards to protect the teeth from the effect of contact. In some real bad cases, patients may be required to see a dentist.

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