Psychoneuroimmunology of Psychological Stress and Atopic Dermatitis: Pathophysiologic and Therapeutic Updates
Andrea L. Suárez1, Jamison D. Feramisco2, John Koo3 and Martin Steinhoff2
1Department of Dermatology, University of Colorado Denver, School of Medicine, Aurora, 2Departments of Dermatology and Surgery, and 3Psoriasis and Skin Treatment Center, University of California, San Francisco, USA
Atopic dermatitis is a chronic inflammatory skin disease characterized by impaired epidermal barrier function, inflammatory infiltration, extensive pruritus and a clinical course defined by symptomatic flares and remissions. The mechanisms of disease exacerbation are still poorly understood. Clinical occurrence of atopic dermatitis is often associated with psychological stress. In response to stress, upregulation of neuropeptide mediators in the brain, endocrine organs, and peripheral nervous system directly affect immune and resident cells in the skin. Lesional and non-lesional skin of patients with atopic dermatitis demonstrates increased mast cells and mast cell-nerve fiber contacts. In the setting of stress, sensory nerves release neuromediators that regulate inflammatory and immune responses, as well as barrier function. Progress towards elucidating these neuroimmune connections will refine our understanding of how emotional stress influences atopic dermatitis. Moreover, psychopharmacologic agents that modulate neuronal receptors or the amplification circuits of inflammation are attractive options for the treatment of not only atopic dermatitis, but also other stress-mediated inflammatory skin diseases. Key words: atopic dermatitis; eczema; psychological stress; neurogenic inflammation; psychoneuroimmunology.