Objective To study the involvement of stress before the onset/development of alopecia areata and vitiligo.
Patients and method Forty-five outpatients with alopecia areata and 32 outpatients with vitiligo were enrolled. The design was a case-control study (controls had skin diseases unrelated to stress). Stressful events were evaluated using Holmes and Rahe's social readjustment rating scale.
Results Mean age was around 30 years in both conditions. More than 65% of cases (both alopecia areata and vitiligo) experienced stressful events compared to 22% of controls. The odds ratio was 7.75 for alopecia areata and 6.81 for vitiligo. There was a significant difference in the mean number of stressful events between alopecia areata patients and controls (P = 0.005), and also a significant difference in the number of stressful events between men (P = 0.05) and women (P = 0.001) across these two groups. In the vitiligo group there was a significant difference in the mean number of stressful events between patients and controls only in women (P = 0.02). A potential stressful situation occurred more often in both patient groups. Alopecia areata patients described family problems in 45.6% of patients (especially women), which was statistically significant when compared to controls (P = 0.0004). Personal problems were reported by 35.7% of alopecia areata patients (P = 0.04 compared to controls). Vitiligo patients mentioned personal problems in 47% of cases (one-third were related to exams) and 31% of cases were related to job/financial problems. Again, this was statistically significant when compared to controls (P = 0.0002).
Conclusions Stress seems to play an important role in the onset and aggravation of both alopecia areata and vitiligo, mostly with one stressful event before disease onset.