Background: An association of mental stress with atopic dermatitis is widely accepted. However, no long-term evaluation of psychophysiological reactivity over the course of disease has yet been performed.
Objective: We examined whether atopic dermatitis patients have an increased psychophysiological reactivity compared to healthy controls and in between acute and disease-free phases, and whether they differ in psychological state and trait variables.
Methods: Fifteen patients with atopic dermatitis underwent a stress test during acute exacerbation and after symptom improvement and were compared to matched controls.
Results: Psychophysiological responses to stress were not stronger in the patient group than in the controls. Nevertheless, the patients had a higher heart rate and lower vagal activity throughout the resting and stress phases at both examination times. The patients showed significantly higher anxiety, depression and emotional excitability, and self-ratings of inactivity clearly distinguished acute phases from remission.
Conclusion: There is an increased vegetative excitability level in patients with atopic dermatitis, which cannot be attributed solely to increased disease activity.
2005 S. Karger AG, Basel