TO YOUR HEALTH Atopy ex­plained for those who suf­fer

Viet Nam News - - LIFE&STYLE -

You may have heard about asthma, but did you know that asthma is only one man­i­fes­ta­tion of a larger dis­ease group called atopy?

What is atopy?

Atopy is a ge­netic pre­dis­po­si­tion of the im­mune sys­tem to over­re­act after ex­po­sure to al­ler­gen trig­gers. An al­ler­gen trig­ger can be any­thing from pollen to cer­tain foods or a chem­i­cal that causes in­di­vid­u­als with atopy to de­velop itchy skin, sneeze or have dif­fi­culty breath­ing. No ge­netic test is avail­able to screen for atopy.

Atopy can ex­hibit in three dif­fer­ent ways: atopic der­mati­tis (itchy skin with or with­out rashes), atopic rhini­tis (sneez­ing) and atopic asthma (wheez­ing). A per­son can ex­hibit a com­bi­na­tion of symp­toms or only one. Symp­toms gen­er­ally de­velop grad­u­ally over time; usu­ally atopic der­mati­tis starts in early child­hood, fol­lowed by atopic rhini­tis and some­times atopic asthma in later stages of child­hood or ado­les­cence.

What is atopic der­mati­tis?

Atopic der­mati­tis, also called eczema, makes the skin itchy and flaky. In ba­bies, it can af­fect the front of the arms, the legs, the cheeks and the scalp. In older chil­dren and adults, it gen­er­ally moves to the neck, the el­bows and knees.

Symp­toms can usu­ally be con­trolled by ap­ply­ing non-fra­grant mois­turis­ers. If these do not suf­fice, the doc­tor may pre­scribe cor­ti­cos­teroid oint­ments or an­ti­his­tamine tablets.

What is atopic rhini­tis?

Atopic rhini­tis af­fects the eyes and the nose.

In­di­vid­u­als may ex­pe­ri­ence sneez­ing at­tacks, a runny or blocked nose, poor sense of smell and itch­i­ness in the eyes, nose and top of the mouth. Atopic rhini­tis is usu­ally sea­sonal, trig­gered by al­ler­gens, such as pollen.

Many in­di­vid­u­als, how­ever, suf­fer through­out the year, as they are con­stantly ex­posed to al­ler­gen trig­gers from within their house or re­side in a city like Haø Noäi, where trig­gers such as pol­lens from plants are com­bined with ex­treme hu­mid­ity and air pol­lu­tion.

The symp­toms can be re­duced by avoid­ing ex­po­sure to al­ler­gen trig­gers and by rins­ing the nose with nat­u­ral sea salt­wa­ter sprays. Your doc­tor may pre­scribe nasal glu­co­cor­ti­coids, de­con­ges­tants and/or anti-his­tamine tablets. If this doesn’t help and in se­vere cases, your doc­tor may pre­scribe skin tests to iden­tify your al­ler­gen trig­gers to per­form a treat­ment called hypo sen­si­ti­sa­tion that al­ters the way your body re­acts to an al­ler­gen trig­ger. What is atopic asthma?

Atopic asthma is a chronic al­ler­gic in­flam­ma­tion of the air­ways in re­ac­tion to al­ler­gen trig­gers.

In a healthy in­di­vid­ual, the air­ways to the lungs re­main fully open, al­low­ing air to move freely in and out of the lungs. If an in­di­vid­ual suf­fers from atopic asthma the in­ner lin­ing of the air­ways swell in re­ac­tion to an al­ler­gen and ex­cess mu­cus is pro­duced. This can block your air­ways, trap air in­side your lungs and make it dif­fi­cult or im­pos­si­ble to breath.

Typ­i­cal symp­toms are cough­ing, wheez­ing, short­ness of breath, rapid breath­ing and tight­ness of the chest. These symp­toms can come and go and of­ten oc­cur at night. They usu­ally re­solve spon­ta­neously or can be treated by in­halers, which have im­me­di­ate ef­fect. In se­vere cases, pa­tients will be pre­scribed oral medicine in ad­di­tion to reg­u­lar use of in­halers.

As with atopic rhini­tis, lit­er­ally any­thing can trig­ger an asth­matic re­ac­tion. The most fre­quent al­ler­gen trig­gers are dust mites, cock­roaches, mold, an­i­mal hair, pollen, weather con­di­tions and air pol­lu­tion, strong emo­tions, to­bacco smoke, chem­i­cal irritants, in­fec­tions, ex­er­cise and cer­tain medicines.

The di­ag­no­sis of asthma is gen­er­ally straight for­ward, re­quir­ing only ex­am­i­na­tion by a doc­tor with the help of a stetho­scope. How­ever, your doc­tor may pre­scribe other tests, such as a spirom­e­try or lung func­tion test, to rule out other con­di­tions with sim­i­lar symp­toms.

What is an asthma at­tack?

Asthma se­ri­ously af­fects qual­ity of life, as the symp­toms can cause dif­fi­culty to breath or force an in­di­vid­ual to stay in­doors to avoid po­ten­tial al­ler­gen trig­gers. A full-blown asthma at­tack is a med­i­cal emer­gency with air­ways swelling and go­ing into spasms that make it hard or im­pos­si­ble to breath.

How to con­trol asthma?

Avoid­ing al­ler­gen trig­gers, med­i­cal treat­ment, ed­u­ca­tion and fol­low-up are keys to the treat­ment of asthma. There are sev­eral med­i­ca­tions avail­able. Some pa­tients re­quire only fast act­ing in­halers when symp­toms oc­cur, while in more se­vere cases pa­tients may need to take med­i­ca­tion and use in­halers daily to keep the dis­ease un­der con­trol. — Hanoi French Hos­pi­tal

* Dr Del­phine Natali is a French­trained spe­cial­ist in pneu­mol­ogy who re­cently joined our team. She works with Dr Hai Tran Pham at Hanoi French Hos­pi­tal. To­gether they bring state of the art knowl­edge and treat­ment for all air­way con­di­tions, dis­eases and al­ler­gies.

If you have any ques­tions or want to book an ap­point­ment with our doc­tors, please con­tact us at 84 – 24.3577.1100,

or email us at con­[email protected]

Dr Del­phine Natali. — Photo cour­tesy of Hanoi French Hos­pi­tal

By Dr Del­phine Natali*

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