What is Allergy & Immunology?
A physician who specializes in allergies, asthma, and other disorders of the immune system is called an allergist-immunologist or simply an allergist. Allergic reactions can cause a huge number of symptoms in the body, and allergy-immunology specialists treat a wide variety of problems, including:
Allergies affecting the respiratory tract, such as allergic rhinitis (hay fever) or asthma.
Allergies affecting the skin, such as eczema, hives, welts, and allergic rashes.
Adverse reactions to substances such as foods, drugs and vaccines, or stinging insects.
Autoimmune diseases, where the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissues. Some examples are rheumatoid arthritis, where the immune system attacks the joints; celiac disease, where the lining of the small intestine is damaged; and Sjogren’s syndrome, where the glands producing tears and saliva are attacked.
Certain diseases of the immune system, such as antibody deficiencies, primary immunodeficiency disease, or in some cases, HIV.
During a visit to an allergist-immunologist, the physician may perform allergy testing to identify which substances are causing the allergic reactions. An important part of the care they provide is prevention education, where patients with allergies learn how to decrease their exposure to problematic substances and control their symptoms of allergic reaction. Allergists might prescribe medication, such as inhaled corticosteroids or beta agonists for asthma. They may also provide immunotherapy, where small amounts of the problem allergen are given via injection to the patient and the amount is increased slowly over time. The shots help the body get used to the allergen and train the immune system to react appropriately to it without causing problem symptoms.
Immune disorders can range from making patients uncomfortable to being life-threatening, and they are becoming more common. Allergy-Immunology is a quickly growing field.
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