Stress can be divided into two main groups, acute and chronic stress. Both forms are shown to affect the immune system, which can trigger rheumatic diseases. Research shows post-traumatic stress can trigger both Rheumatoid arthritis og Systemic Lupus (SLE)
In acute stress, the sympathetic (adrenergic) nervous system activates blood and lymphatic circulation, through, for example, adrenaline
- The body is being prepared hormonally for a "fight and escape reaction"
- The adrenal glands send out increased amounts of cortisone
- Increased circulation means that the immune system to a greater extent recognizes foreign substances such as bacteria and viruses by increased antigen processing and presentation. However, there is also an increased risk of autoimmune reactions and rheumatic inflammation (reference: Pontgratz G, Straub RH, 2014)
- It is shown that psychosocial stress for example by talking in front of a meeting causes stress reaction with increased cortisone and adrenaline in the blood. In addition, the immune cells react with increased (NFkB) activity so that anti-inflammatory drugs (proinflammatory cytokines) increase
Persistent stress, for example, among people caring for chronically ill relatives, causes the immune system to produce increased amounts of inflammatory agents (pro-inflammatory cytokines) that trigger inflammation (via interleukin-6) (reference: Kiecolt-Glaser JK, Prescher KJ, 2003). In addition, the hormone system between the hypotalamus-pituitary-adrenocortical can be overstimulated in such a way that errors can occur in the immune system and rheumatic diseases are triggered
Not everyone's immune system reacts equally to stress.
- Data suggest that genetic differences determine the degree of stress-induced hormone secretion (reference: Cole SW, Arevalo JM, 2010)
- Lee YC, Agnew-Blais Malspeis S, 2016 (Arthritis, RA)
- Roberts AL, Malspeis S, 2017 (Systemic lupus (SLE))