Stress can be divided into two main groups, acute and chronic stress. Both forms have been shown to affect the immune system, which can trigger rheumatic diseases (stress and rheumatic disease). Research shows post-traumatic stress can trigger both Rheumatoid arthritis og Systemic Lupus (SLE)
In acute stress, the sympathetic (adrenergic) nervous system is activated so that blood and lymph circulation increases, via adrenaline, among other things. The body is hormonally prepared for a "fight and flight reaction". The adrenal glands release increased amounts of cortisone.
Stress and rheumatic disease: Increased circulation means that the immune system recognizes foreign substances such as bacteria and viruses to a greater extent through increased antigen processing and presentation. However, this also increases the risk of autoimmune reactions and rheumatic inflammation (reference: Pontgratz G, Straub RH, 2014)
It has been shown that psychosocial stress, for example by speaking in front of an assembly, causes a stress reaction with increased cortisone and adrenaline in the blood. In addition, the immune cells respond with increased (NFkB) activity so that pro-inflammatory (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
Individual response to stress
Not everyone's immune system responds equally to stress. Data suggest that genetic differences determine the degree of hormone secretion triggered by stress (reference: Cole SW, Arevalo JM, 2010)
- Lee YC, Agnew-Blais Malspeis S, 2016 (Arthritis, RA)
- Roberts AL, Malspeis S, 2017 (Systemic lupus (SLE))