Cortisol, a hormone produced by the brain, increases when individuals are experiencing stress, taking certain medications or suffering from certain medical conditions. High levels of cortisol cause certain health problems including heart disease, depression and skin conditions.
Measurement of Cortisol Levels
Health professionals use a lab test to analyze levels of cortisol hormones in the body; normal levels of cortisol range from 10 to 100 micrograms. High cortisol levels exacerbate skin conditions causing itchiness and scratchiness.
Adults who experienced stressful or traumatic events as a child are more susceptible to stress and more likely to have high cortisol levels. Hyperthyroidism, a condition where the thyroid produces too many hormones and certain types of medications also cause high cortisol levels.
A Japanese study, conducted by Dr. Yamamoto with Kyoto University in Japan, found that individuals who experienced itchy skin suffered from high levels of stress; although the study did not measure cortisol levels, stress causes high cortisol levels.
Over-the-counter products, such as creams and lotions, treat the itchy skin caused by eczema and psoriasis. However, individuals should manage stress to control cortisol levels and itchy skin problems.
Individuals can manage stress levels by eating a healthy diet, exercising and practicing yoga. Exercise and yoga reduce stress levels and thus aid in the reduction of high cortisol levels.