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Understanding Atopy

Atopy refers to an allergic hypersensitivity that affects parts of the body that do not come into direct contact with the allergen. It is sometimes referred to as an atopic syndrome.

While the terminology is a bit controversial…it was coined by Coca and Cooke in 1923. The controversy comes when applying the term to patient cases. Some physicians use the term to describe any IgE mediated reaction even if the reaction is appropriate. Others reserve the term to describe genetically mediated predispositions resulting in excessive reactions to IgE.

When described as “hyperallergic” or hypersensitive to allergens individuals can have a hard time pinpointing exactly what is meant. This can mean that a patient has suffered from frequent bouts of atopic eczema or atopic dermatitis since they were a baby.

Atopic eczema causes the patient to suffer itchy (extremely) patches of skin. The areas are often covered in rashes. Rashes most often appear on the crook of the elbows, back of the knees, or other flexural regions. But the rash can appear on any area of the body. Certain irritants exacerbate the condition.

Other conditions that may present as a result of atopy include:

1. Atopic Dermatitis

2. Eczema

3. Allergic Conjunctivitis

4. Allergic Rhinitis

5. Asthma

In most cases of atopy there appears to be a hereditary element. Studies indicate that the risk for suffering atopy increases by a factor of two with each additional 1st degree family member that is suffering from the condition. Atopic diseases are said to have experienced a steep rise due to the increased emphasis on hygiene.

In basic terms…the cleanliness of the environments we live in have resulted in a decline in the amount of infectious stimuli that are required in order to properly develop the immune system. others support the theory that the diet of pregnant women can be a cause of atopy in their offspring.

The first step in obtaining proper treatment for atopic rhinitis or any allergy related condition is to get in touch with an experienced allergist in your area for a proper diagnosis and to identify specific allergens triggering the condition.

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