Skin Allergy

SKIN ALLERGY. Allergy is a disorder of the immune system often also referred to as atopy. Allergic reactions occur to normally harmless environmental substances known as allergens these reactions are acquired, predictable, and rapid. Strictly, allergy is one Signs and symptoms Many allergens such as dust or pollen are airborne particles. In these cases, symptoms arise in areas in contact with air, such as eyes, nose and lungs. For instance, allergic rhinitis, also known as hay fever, causes irritation of the nose, sneezing, and itching and redness of the eyes.Inhaled allergens can also lead to asthmatic symptoms, caused by narrowing of the airways (bronchoconstriction) and increased production of mucus in the lungs, shortness of breath (dyspnea), coughing and wheezing. Aside from these ambient allergens, allergic reactions can result from foods, insect stings, and reactions to medications like aspirin and antibiotics such as penicillin. Symptoms of food allergy include abdominal pain, bloating, vomiting, diarrhea, itchy skin, and swelling of the skin during hives. Food allergies rarely cause respiratory (asthmatic) reactions, or rhinitis.[8] Insect stings, antibiotics, and certain medicines produce a systemic allergic response that is also called anaphylaxis multiple organ systems can be affected, including the digestive system, the respiratory system, and the circulatory system.Depending of the rate of severity, it can cause cutaneous reactions, bronchoconstriction, edema, hypotension, coma, and even death. This type of reaction can be triggered suddenly, or the onset can be delayed. The severity of this type of allergic response often requires injections of epinephrine, sometimes through a device known as the EpiPen auto-injector. The nature of anaphylaxis is such that the reaction can seem to be subsiding, but may recur throughout a prolonged period of time. Substances that come into contact with the skin, such as latex, are also common causes of allergic reactions, known as contact dermatitis or eczema.Skin allergies frequently cause rashes, or swelling and inflammation within the skin, in what is known as a "wheal and flare" reaction characteristic of hives and angioedema. CAUSES Risk factors for allergy can be placed in two general categories, namely host and environmental factors. Host factors include heredity, sex, race, and age, with heredity being by far the most significant. However, there have been recent increases in the incidence of allergic disorders that cannot be explained by genetic factors alone. Four major environmental candidates are alterations in exposure to infectious diseases during early childhood, environmental pollution, allergen levels, and dietary changes. Genetic basis Allergic diseases are strongly familial: identical twins are likely to have the same allergic diseases about 70% of the time the same allergy occurs about 40% of the time in non-identical twins.Allergic parents are more likely to have allergic children,and their allergies are likely to be more severe than those from non-allergic parents. Some allergies, however, are not consistent along genealogies parents who are allergic to peanuts may have children who are allergic to ragweed. It seems that the likelihood of developing allergies is inherited and related to an irregularity in the immune system, but the specific allergen is not. The risk of allergic sensitization and the development of allergies varies with age, with young children most at risk.Several studies have shown that IgE levels are highest in childhood and fall Overall, boys have a higher risk of developing allergy than girls,although for some diseases, namely asthma in young adults, females are more likely to be affected. Sex differences tend to decrease in adulthood. Ethnicity may play a role in some allergies, however racial factors have been difficult to separate from environmental influences and changes due to migration. Interestingly, it has been suggested that different genetic loci are responsible for asthma, specifically, in people of European, Hispanic, Asian, and African origins of four forms of hypersensitivity and is called type I (or immediate) hypersensitivity. It is characterized by excessive activation of certain white blood cells called mast cells and basophils by a type of antibody known as Ige, resulting in an extreme inflammatory response. Common allergic reactions include eczema, hives, hay fever, asthma, food allergies, and reactions to the venom of stinging insects such as wasps and beess. Mild allergies like hay fever are highly prevalent in the human population and cause symptoms such as allergic conjunctivitis, itchiness, and runny nose. Allergies can play a major role in conditions such as asthma. In some people, severe allergies to environmental or dietary allergens or to medication may result in life-threatening anaphylactic reactions and potentially death. A variety of tests now exist to diagnose allergic conditions these include testing the skin for responses to known allergens or analyzing the blood for the presence and levels of allergen-specific Ige. Treatments for allergies include allergen avoidance, use of anti-histamines, steroids or other oral medications, immunotherapy to desensitize the response to allergen, and targeted therapy. Skin testing For assessing the presence of allergen-specific IgE antibodies, allergy skin testing is preferred over blood allergy tests because it is more sensitive and specific, simpler to use, and less expensive. Skin testing is also known as "puncture testing" and "prick testing" due to the series of tiny puncture or pricks made into the patient's skin. Small amounts of suspected allergens and/or their extracts (pollen, grass, mite proteins, peanut extract, etc.) are introduced to sites on the skin marked with pen or dye (the ink/dye should be carefully selected, lest it cause an allergic response itself). A small plastic or metal device is used to puncture or prick the skin. Sometimes, the allergens are injected "intradermally" into the patient's skin, with a needle and syringe. Common areas for testing include the inside forearm and the back. If the patient is allergic to the substance, then a visible inflammatory reaction will usually occur within 30 minutes. This response will range from slight reddening of the skin to a full-blown hive (called "wheal and flare") in more sensitive patients. Interpretation of the results of the skin prick test is normally done by allergists on a scale of severity, with +/- meaning borderline reactivity, and 4+ being a large reaction. Increasingly, allergists are measuring and recording the diameter of the wheal and flare reaction. Interpretation by well-trained allergists is often guided by relevant literature. Some patients may believe they have determined their own allergic sensitivity from observation, but a skin test has been shown to be much better than patient observation to detect allergy. If a serious life threatening anaphylactic reaction has brought a patient in for evaluation, some allergists will prefer an initial blood test prior to performing the skin prick test. Skin tests may not be an option if the patient has widespread skin disease or has taken antihistamines sometime the last several days. Blood testing Various blood allergy testing methods are also available for detecting allergy to specific substances. This kind of testing measures a "total IgE level" - an estimate of IgE contained within the patient's serum. This can be determined through the use of radiometric and colormetric immunoassays. Radiometric assays include the radioallergosorbent test (RAST) test method, which uses IgE-binding (anti-IgE) antibodies labeled with radioactive isotopes for quantifying the levels of IgE antibody in the blood.[40] Other newer methods use colorimetric or fluorometric technology in the place of radioactive isotopes. Some "screening" test methods are intended to provide qualitative test results, giving a "yes" or "no" answer in patients with suspected allergic sensitization. One such method has a sensitivity of about 70 and a positive predictive value of 72 according to a large study. A low total IgE level is not adequate to rule out sensitization to commonly inhaled allergens. Statistical methods, such as ROC curves, predictive value calculations, and likelihood ratios have been used to examine the relationship of various testing methods to each other. These methods have shown that patients with a high total IgE have a high probability of allergic sensitization, but further investigation with specific allergy tests for a carefully chosen allergens is often warranted.  

 

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