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Review
. 2008 Jan;7(3):209-13.
doi: 10.1016/j.autrev.2007.11.007. Epub 2007 Nov 29.

Stress as a Trigger of Autoimmune Disease

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Review

Stress as a Trigger of Autoimmune Disease

Ljudmila Stojanovich et al. Autoimmun Rev. .

Abstract

The etiology of autoimmune diseases is multifactorial: genetic, environmental, hormonal, and immunological factors are all considered important in their development. Nevertheless, the onset of at least 50% of autoimmune disorders has been attributed to "unknown trigger factors". Physical and psychological stress has been implicated in the development of autoimmune disease, since numerous animal and human studies demonstrated the effect of sundry stressors on immune function. Moreover, many retrospective studies found that a high proportion (up to 80%) of patients reported uncommon emotional stress before disease onset. Unfortunately, not only does stress cause disease, but the disease itself also causes significant stress in the patients, creating a vicious cycle. Recent reviews discuss the possible role of psychological stress, and of the major stress-related hormones, in the pathogenesis of autoimmune disease. It is presumed that the stress-triggered neuroendocrine hormones lead to immune dysregulation, which ultimately results in autoimmune disease, by altering or amplifying cytokine production. The treatment of autoimmune disease should thus include stress management and behavioral intervention to prevent stress-related immune imbalance. Different stress reactions should be discussed with autoimmune patients, and obligatory questionnaires about trigger factors should include psychological stress in addition to infection, trauma, and other common triggers.

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