Types of allergy
Allergy is an overreaction of the immune system to substances that are otherwise harmless, causing respiratory, skin and systemic diseases. The most common allergic reaction comes in the form of respiratory symptoms caused by airborne particles such as grass or pollen. For most people these tiny particles are insignificant, but for people with allergies, they can trigger seasonal or chronic respiratory conditions, such as hay fever or allergic asthma.
Allergic diseases are linked through common immunological mechanisms, and co-morbidities are common. The risk of getting a new allergy increases with the number of allergies already present. Disease severity may also increase. For example, rhinitis is a risk factor for asthma, and at least 60% of asthma patients also suffer from allergic rhinitis.
Individuals may react with symptoms upon repeated exposure to the sensitizing allergens, and a prolonged exposure to allergens can results in chronic inflammation in the airways. In the beginning airway inflammation may be reversed by allergen avoidance and/or treatment, but chronic inflammation may lead to irreversible destruction of airway tissue.
“Allergy is an overreaction to the immune system to substances that are otherwise harmless, causing respiratory, skin and systemic diseases. Most common are the respiratory diseases.”
What is allergy?
Allergic symptoms are triggered by exposure to allergens in sensitized individuals. Allergy is specific in the sense that only allergens to which the individual is sensitized provoke symptoms. The most important allergens are the most common proteins present on airborne particles in the air we breathe. The particles are inhaled and upon contact with the moist surface of the airway mucosa, proteins are extracted and come into contact with the immune system. Allergen exposure can also occur through the gastrointestinal tract or through the skin. Bee and wasp allergens are present in the venoms of the insects and come into contact with the immune system after injection into the body.
“After diagnosis, through a thorough recording of the patients’ clinical history and tests, the recommended treatment for allergic disease combines patient education, allergen avoidance, symptomatic treatment and allergen specific immunotherapy.”
Diagnosis & Treatment
After diagnosis, through a thorough recording of the patients’ clinical history and tests, the recommended treatment for allergic disease combines patient education, allergen avoidance, symptomatic treatment and allergen specific immunotherapy.
Patient Education: It is important that the patient understand the causes of disease and disease mechanisms, possibilities for avoiding allergen exposure, treatment alternatives and proper use of medication.
Allergen Avoidance: It may be difficult for the patient to avoid some allergens completely, like pollen, insect bites and house dust mites, but to the extent possible, it is advisable.
Symptomatic Medication: Proper administration of symptomatic medication controls symptoms, but does not affect the underlying disease itself. A survey conducted by the European Federation of Allergy and Airways Diseases Patients’ Associations (EFA) found that most patients find that the medication has no effect, or at best only a moderate effect, on their symptoms.
Allergen Vaccination (Immunotherapy): Immunotherapy is a well-documented therapy, recognized by the World Health Organization as the only treatment that treats the underlying cause of the allergy. Immunotherapy cures some patients and lead to considerable improvement for others. Immunotherapy has persistent effect after finished treatment and prevents disease escalation, for example immunotherapy prevents the development of asthma in children with rhinitis. Even so, fewer than 5% of allergic patients are currently treated with allergy immunotherapy.
“Allergic symptoms are triggered by exposure to allergens in sensitized individuals. Allergy is specific in the sense that only allergens to which the individual is sensitzed rovoke symptoms.”
Allergen specific immunotherapy
Allergen specific immunotherapy is the repeated administration of allergen to induce immunological tolerance and relieve symptom impact. Immunotherapy improves quality of life of allergic patients and is cost-effective over a period of 6 years. Allergen specific immunotherapy cures approximately 40% of patients, whereas another 40% experience a substantial reduction in symptom severity as well as symptom duration. Approximately 20% of patients report no effect of treatment. Immunotherapy has effect on all allergic symptoms in one treatment.