Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment and Management-
Allergies are among the most common chronic conditions worldwide. Allergy symptoms range from making you miserable to putting you at risk for life-threatening reactions.
According to the leading experts in allergy, an allergic reaction begins in the immune system. Our immune system protects us from invading organisms that can cause illness. If you have an allergy, your immune system mistakes an otherwise harmless substance as an invader. This substance is called an allergen. The immune system overreacts to the allergen by producing Immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies. These antibodies travel to cells that release histamine and other chemicals, causing an allergic reaction. Here at Tapia Internal Medicine Clinic PLLC we offer allergy consults, testing and immunotherapy.
When is Allergy Testing Appropriate?
Testing done by a doctor is generally safe and effective for adults of all ages. The allergen extracts or vaccines used in allergy tests performed by us meet U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requirements.
Symptoms which usually prompt an allergist to perform testing include:
- Respiratory: itchy eyes, nose or throat; nasal congestion, runny nose, watery eyes, chest congestion, cough or wheezing
- Skin: itchiness or eczema
- Abdominal: vomiting or cramping and diarrhea consistently after eating certain foods
- Severe reactions to stinging insect stings (other than swelling at the site of the sting)
- Anaphylaxis (pronounced an-a-fi-LAK-sis): a serious allergic reaction that affects many parts of the body at the same time.
It is important that allergy testing is directed by a healthcare professional with sufficient allergy/immunology training and prompted by your medical history.
Types of Allergy Tests:
Different allergens bother different people, so your allergist will determine which test is the best for you. Regardless of the type of test, an allergist will first perform a physical examination and ask questions about your symptoms to determine if allergy testing is warranted.
IgE Skin Tests:
This type of testing is the most common and is relatively painless. A very small amount of certain allergens is put into your skin by making a small indentation or “prick” on the surface of your skin.
If you have allergies, just a little swelling that looks and feels like a mosquito bite will occur where the allergen(s) to which you are allergic was introduced. If you are allergic to ragweed pollen but not to cats, only the ragweed allergen will cause a little swelling or itching. The spot where the cat allergen was applied will remain normal.
You don’t have to wait long to find out what is triggering your allergies. Reactions occur within about 20 minutes. And you generally won’t have any other symptoms besides the small hives where the tests were done, which go away within 30 minutes. If your prick skin tests are negative but your physician still suspects you might have allergies, more sensitive “intradermal” tests may be used in which a small amount of allergen is injected within the skin.
Skin tests are best performed in an allergist’s office to assure the test results are read properly and to minimize the risk of rare side effects.
Depending on the type of allergy you have, you can train your body to become less allergic. Immunotherapy is a preventive treatment for allergic reactions to substances such as grass pollens, house dust mites and bee venom. Immunotherapy involves giving gradually increasing doses of the substance, or allergen, to which the person is allergic. The incremental increases of the allergen cause the immune system to become less sensitive to the substance, probably by causing production of a “blocking” antibody, which reduces the symptoms of allergy when the substance is encountered in the future. Immunotherapy also reduces the inflammation that characterizes rhinitis and asthma.
Before starting treatment, the allergist and patient identify trigger factors for allergy symptoms. Skin or sometimes blood tests are performed to confirm the specific allergens to which the person has antibodies. Immunotherapy is usually recommended only if the person seems to be selectively sensitive to several allergens.