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Allergy is a reaction of hypersensitivity of the body's immune system developed to repeated impacts of a certain compound or compounds (allergens) on the previously sensitized by the allergen body. Allergens are considered substances having direct allergic effects, and substances that can strongly potentiate the effect of other allergens. A wide variety of substances can be classified as allergens among them are pollen, medications, alimentary products (nuts, eggs, milk, etc.), animal products (hair) and others. Allergy is a very common problem which affects millions of people all over the world.
A person can be exposed to an allergen by direct contact like inhaling, swallowing or skin contact. After exposure to an allergen the immune system starts to produce immunoglobulin E (IgE) a specific type of antibody which binds to blood cells mastocytes (mast cells). Mast cells are found in most tissues characteristically surrounding blood vessels and nerves (in the skin, lungs, gastrointestinal tract, nasal and oral cavity, conjunctiva and etc.). When the allergen binds to immunoglobulin E attached to the mastocytes, these cells start to release inflammatory and allergic mediators like histamine and cytokines (Eosinophil chemotactic factor). Being released into the blood circulation histamine dilate and increase permeability of the blood vessels causing swelling (edema), redness. They also increase the sensitivity of the nerve endings causing itching and pain.
The symptoms of an allergy vary depending on the type of an allergic reaction.
Hay fever known as allergic rhinitis or runny nose is a medical condition associated with irritation and inflammation of the mucous lining in the nasal cavity. Hay fever is manifested with the following symptoms:
Atopic dermatitis is an itchy skin condition also known as eczema. Atopic dermatitis may cause:
Food allergy is an allergic disease caused by allergens found in food products. A food allergy may cause:
An insect sting allergy is an allergy caused by stings of different insects like honeybees, bumble bees, hornets, wasps, yellow jackets, and fire ants. An insect sting allergy is usually manifested in:
Drug induced allergies are the most common types of allergic reactions caused by the application of medical preparations. A drug allergy may cause the following symptoms:
Some allergies to food, drugs or insect bites may provoke the development of severe allergic reaction like anaphylaxis. Anaphylactic shock is a life-threatening condition which involves different organs and systems. The mortality rate in patients with anaphylaxis reaches 10-25%.
The symptoms of anaphylactic shock include:
The treatment of allergy includes different approaches.
The first step in handling chronic allergies is a visit to an allergist. A doctor will start the examination by taking a detailed medical history. From that, he or she can determine a list of suspected allergens. To confirm the diagnosis a doctor may suggest to pass an allergy test. Once a diagnosis is confirmed a doctor will inform about possible allergy treatment options.
Allergy treatment options may include:
All anti-allergic medicines are divided in the following groups: