Allergic Disease

What Is Allergic Disease?

Approximately 50 million Americans suffer from some form of allergic disease. Allergic disease can develop at any age, and heredity plays a key role in who will develop it. If one parent has allergic disease, the estimated risk of the child to develop allergies is 48% and the child’s risk grows to 70% if both parents have allergies. Symptoms of allergic disease are the result of events occurring within your immune system, the bodys defense mechanism against harmful substances. The body of an individual with allergic disease identifies some substances, called allergens, as harmful. These substances, which are harmless to most people, trigger allergic reactions within that person’s immune system. When someone predisposed to allergic disease encounters an allergen to which they are sensitive, a chain of events occurs.

The primary culprit instigating these events in people with allergies is an antibody called Immunoglobulin E or IgE. IgE defends the body by seeking to remove the offending allergen(s) from the body’s tissues and bloodstream. The first time an allergen enters an allergic person’s body, IgE antibodies are produced in response. These antibodies then travel to cells called mast cells, attach themselves to these cells, and wait for the next time the allergen(s) enters the system. When they do, the IgE antibodies capture the allergens, essentially removing them from circulation. The mast cells then assist further by releasing special chemicals called mediators. These mediators produce the classic symptoms of allergic reactions including swelling of body tissues, sneezing, wheezing, coughing and other symptoms. Due to the complexity of allergic disease, it is not yet fully understood why some substances trigger allergies and others do not, nor why every person does not develop an allergic reaction after exposure to allergens.

Types Of Allergic Disease

Common Allergic Diseases Include: Allergic rhinitis or hay fever.In the U.S., approximately 35 million people suffer from this disease, which is characterized by sneezing, congestion, itching and dripping of the nose and itchy, watery eyes. Asthma, a chronic lung disease characterized by coughing, chest tightness, shortness of breath and wheezing. Asthma affects more than 17 million Americans, and asthma cases appear to be increasing annually. Asthma symptoms may be triggered by allergens or other, non-allergic stimuli, such as respiratory tract infections, cold air or tobacco smoke. Sinusitis and otitis media, common allergic diseases often triggered by allergic rhinitis. Sinusitis is an inflammation of the nasal sinuses, which are hollow cavities within the cheek bones found around the eyes and behind the nose. This condition affects over 15% of the U.S. population. Otitis media or common ear infections is the most common childhood disease requiring pediatric allergist’s care.

Atopic dermatitis, also called eczema. Symptoms of this allergic skin condition include itching, reddening and flaking or peeling of the skin. This rash is usually seen in young infants, but can occur later in individuals with personal or family histories of atopy, meaning asthma or allergic rhinitis.

Urticaria, also known as hives, and angioedema. Hives are itchy, red bumps that appear on the surface of the skin. They can occur in clumps and range in size and can be either chronic, appearing and disappearing for no reason or acute. Triggers of acute hives include infection or ingestion of some foods or medications. Often appearing with hives, angioedema is a non-itchy swelling in the deeper layers of the skin. Anaphylaxis, a severe, systemic allergic reaction generally caused by substances that are injected or ingested (eaten) including some foods and medications, insect stings and latex. Symptoms can include a feeling of warmth, flushing, tingling in the mouth, a red, itchy rash, feelings of lightheadedness, shortness of breath, severe sneezing, anxiety, stomach or uterine cramps and/or vomiting and diarrhea. In severe cases, a drop in blood pressure results in a loss of consciousness and shock. Without immediate treatment, injection of epinephrine (adrenalin) and an expert care, anaphylaxis can be fatal.