The immune system refers to a complex network of proteins and cells that protect the body from infections. The system protects the body against the invasion of disease-causing microbes, such as parasites, bacteria, viruses and allergens, among other foreign substances. It works by keeping a record of all microbes that it has ever come in contact with to recognize. Then, it is able to destroy them with ease when they invade the body again in the future.
This system comprises specialized cells, chemicals and organs that help in fighting infections or antigens. The primary components of the immune system include antibodies, the spleen, white blood cells, complement system, bone marrow, the lymphatic system and thymus. These are the key parts of the immune system that actively destroy the pathogens that invade the body by triggering cascades of immunologic reactions.
However, abnormalities that may occur in the immune system can lead to immunodeficiency, autoimmune disorders, and allergic reactions.
What are allergies? An allergy refers to a wide range of conditions resulting from immunologic reactions. These occur when the immune system becomes hypersensitive to substances commonly known as allergens. People become exposed allergens when they are inhaled, injected, swallowed or come in contact with the skin, airways or eyes. The immune reaction that occurs is not caused by the toxic nature of the allergen, but as a result of the immune system (wrongly) recognizing the allergen as harmful to the body. In essence, an allergy is caused by the hypersensitivity of the immune system.
The impact of the allergies to the immune system. At this point, we can see that allergies are a manifestation of a malfunctioning immune system. The latter mistakes an innocuous antigen for a potential threat, initiating a response that often puts the body in harm’s way. But the damage does not stop there as allergies can also put the immune system itself at risk. Repeated allergic reactions can weaken the body’s defenses and leave it more susceptible to harmful microbes. Some allergy symptoms can also get in the way of a good night’s sleep, which is one of the things your immune system needs to hone its capabilities.
Treatment for allergies. Prevention is the best form of treatment as far as allergies are concerned. Try to keep away from substances you know you are allergic to. And if you suffer from allergic symptoms but are not sure of what triggers them, make an appointment with an immunologist for an examination.
They will identify your allergens and recommend an appropriate treatment plan.
It is worth mentioning that allergies are not actually curable — treatments are meant for easing symptoms and preventing allergic reactions from causing harm to the body. Common treatments include antihistamines and mast cell stabilizers which both block the release of histamine and are ideal for seasonal and indoor allergies, corticosteroids which refers to a class of drugs that provide relief for inflammation and are available in several forms. Nasal sprays can help in relieving the swelling that causes stuffiness and itchiness and are effective for nasal allergies and creams are usually prescribed for skin allergies, while oral corticosteroids can help with severe reactions. And decongestants are sprays that can help with nasal discomfort.
In a nutshell, an allergy is a long chain reaction that begins and ends with the immune system. It starts when the body responds to a mosquito bite with a hammer, so to speak. This not only paves way for opportunistic illnesses, but it also impairs the immune system. Nonetheless, there are treatments that can mitigate the damage and help you lead a more comfortable life. Just be sure to consult an immunologist prior to using these treatments.
In conclusion, getting a clear understanding of allergic diseases is a great step towards realizing the prevention, treatment and control modalities. It is also essential to know the specific triggers to hypersensitivity to aid in its prevention. Luckily, the solution lies in establishing the impact that the allergies put on the immune system. Understanding these effects will be essential in managing and alleviating the symptoms caused by hypersensitivity.
Dr. Alfred Johnson, D.O. is a physician practicing in Richardson, specializing in internal medicine, environmental medicine and chronic disease. For more information, visit johnsonmedicalassociates.com.