What is allergen immunotherapy? | facingallergies.com
Allergen immunotherapy acting at the core of the allergy process. Respiratoy allergies often cause symptoms that affect the noze, eyes and throat. These symptoms occur when the allergic patient is in contact with the foreign substances to the body called an allergen harmless to most people. Allergy negatively affects daily life leading to disturbed sleep, fatigue, absenteeism and poor performance at work and at school as well as having an impact on everyday or leisure activities as social relations.
Why are we allergic? Why are we allergic? An allergy is an over reaction of the immune system in contact with the allergen. The reaction takes place in two phases. The first phase is the sensitization phase.
Upon initial contact with the allergen, the immune system considers the allergen as ennemy susbtance. The cells in the immune system macrophages and lymphocites interact. Lymphocites produce antibodies specific to the allergen which bind to other cells known as mast cells. These mast cells are then sensitized to the allergen.
The second phase is the reaction phase which takes place when the allergen is encountered again. The mast cells sentitized to the allergen recognize it immediately and release inflammatory substances to mobilise the immune system. These inflammatory molecules are what calls allergy symptoms. Respiratory allergy is a hereditary progressive chronic disease that untreated worsens. Patients sensitive to an allergen often develop sensitization to other allergens over time. Allergic rhinitis may lead to onset of asthma. Can we modify the allergic reaction? Can we modify the allergic reaction? There are two types of allergy treatments for treating allergies : Symptomatic treatments, prescribed as first line treatment to relieve symptoms. Allergen immunotherapy also known as desensitization, the only treatment to act directly on the cause of the allergy.
Based on the same principles of vaccination, allergen immunotheray consists of gradually and regularly administering the allergen causing the symptoms to patients in order to induce tolerance to the allergen. How does it work? Allergen immunotherapy reaccustoms the body to the presents of the allergen and rebalances immune response. It reduces allergy symptoms or even causes them to disappear altogether. It can also prevent sensitization to other allergens and the onset of asthma by acting directly on the cause. Only allergen immunotherapy can offer a long lasting effect. Only allergy specialists are able to assess relevance of allergen immunotherapy. Specialists first of all conduct an allergy assessment which involves clinical history-taking, in-depth diagnosis by skin tests and blood tests where applicable to determine which allergen the patient is sensitive to.
Allergy specialists prescribe the most appropriate treatment on the basis of the patient's allergy assessment. Allergen immunotherapy can be administrated in two ways : The sublingual route, common today, whereby patients at home place drops of a solution or a tablet under the tongue. The subcutaneous route, whereby patients in a medical environment receive regular injections.
Who can benefit from allergen immunotherapy? Allergen immunotherapy is indicated in subjects whith allergic rhinitis or mild to moderate asthma where symptomatic treatments are insufficient. It can be started as of the age of 5 years. When to start allergen immunotherapy? In the case of seasonal allergies, such as pollen allergy, the treatment can be started a few months before the start of the pollen season and continued during the pollen season. The treatment can then be discontinued and started again the year after following the same protocol. In the case of perennial allergies, such as allergies to dust mites or animal hair, the treatment can be started at any time of the year and it is taken continuously.
For long term efficacy, the treatment must be taken for at least 3 years or 3 consecutive seasons. Allergen immunotherapy by acting on the causes of the disease reduces allergies symptoms as of the first few weeks and improves the quality of life of allergies sufferers.
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