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Addiction

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If you are one of those people who just can’t stop looking at your phone, checking Facebook or simply love gaming, it is most likely that you are addicted. But before you brush it off as something that is simply a myth, know that the definition of an addiction has changed.

While addiction was traditionally referred to as being addicted to a particular substance especially drugs, cigarettes or alcohol, the definition has now been expanded to include activities like the internet, gaming, social networks, gambling, etc. Basically an addiction is defined as continuing to do something even when logic dictates that the said activity/substance has adverse effects on one’s overall well-being. Refraining from the aforementioned substances/activities can result in withdrawal symptoms which can be physical or emotional.

Traditionally addiction refers to any substance that was capable of crossing the blood brain barrier and cause a reaction in the brain. Therefore an addiction to alcohol, drugs, cigarettes was considered as an addiction. But later this definition was expanded to include anything that caused psychological dependency like in the case of gambling, sex, work, exercising, the internet etc. The key to defining someone as an addict is when the person cannot control his/her need for a particular thing or substance, so much so that psychologist believe that a long term habit can also become an addiction – where a person simply must perform a particular activity in order to feel at peace.

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In some cases an addiction may even be fatal, for instance drug addiction – where drug overdoses are a common cause of death. Find out about the 10 celebrities who died of drug overdose. While it is not necessary that your addiction will kill you it is best the addiction is curbed as soon as possible, especially in the case of substances like drugs and cigarettes. Find out about 10 celebrities who beat drug addiction.

But apart from just drugs there are some addictions that you don’t come across every day. Addictions like  food addiction, porn addiction, addiction to Facebook and even gaming have not only shone the torch on how society has changed but also how we all respond to the stresses in our lives. So much so that now scientists have found that addiction could be hereditary – it’s all in our genes.

Types

A person could be allergic to one or several allergens. There are different forms of allergies depending on the type of allergen triggering the response. Here are the most common forms of allergies that people suffer from.

1. Food allergy: Your immune system could trigger a response to proteins present in specific foods you consume. Allergies to nuts, egg, wheat, milk and chickpeas are more common, contributing to 90% of food allergies found in India.

2. Dust allergy: Dust particles can enter your nasal passage and cause blocked nose, cough, sneezing and irritation in the throat.

3. Seasonal allergy: Many people complain about allergic symptoms with a change in climate and season. 

4. Pet allergy: You could develop an allergic reaction to skin flakes, dander or saliva of your pet. Moreover, the fur of animals attracts dust and pollen that can worsen allergy symptoms.

5. Drug allergy: Your system could evoke an immune response to either the drug or the chemical generated inside the body by the drug. This type of allergy could be severe and may be fatal

6. Cosmetic allergy: Chemicals used in cosmetics can trigger an immune response causing allergic skin reaction and swelling.

Symptoms

Symptoms of allergies are triggered depending on the part of the system the allergen targets.


  • Dust, seasonal and pet allergy can cause congestion, runny nose, swollen eyes, watery eyes, throat irritation and blocked nose.

  • Food allergy can cause mouth and throat irritation, swelling of the mouth, indigestion, vomiting, nausea, stomach cramps, bloating and diarrhea. Some food allergens can also trigger respiratory symptoms like wheezing, runny nose, sneezing and coughing.

  • Drug allergy can cause itchy skin, redness, swelling, wheezing and skin rash

  • Cosmetic allergy can cause redness, swelling and flaking of skin. It can cause itching and skin rashes.


Certain allergies can become severe. If you develop any of the following symptoms, you should see a doctor immediately.

  • Difficulty in breathing or extreme shortness of breath

  • Tightness in the chest, congestion or chest pain

  • If eczema progresses to thickening and swelling of skin

  • Hives or itchy swelling on the skin

  • Anaphylaxis or a life-threatening allergic reaction

Diagnosis

To determine whether you’re suffering from an allergic reaction, your doctor may recommend a simple blood test. ‘The general test for the diagnosis of allergies include a CBC (Complete Blood Count). If your results show an increased eosinophil level and IgE level, then you might be diagnosed with an allergy,’ says Dr Abha Shroff, chief pathologist and director at Disha Pathology Labs, Mumbai. To determine the allergen causing the undesirable reaction, you may have to undergo the following tests:


  • Scratch skin test: A small drop of the suspected allergen is placed on the surface of the skin. Using a needle, the surface is scratched or priked lightly so as to allow the allergen to get absorbed. Any immediate redness, swelling or change in the surface of skin may indicate allergy towards the allergen under test. 



  • Immunoassays: In certain situations, such as extensive eczema, skin tests cannot be performed as it may lead to dangerous consequences. In such cases, the doctor may recommend blood tests such as the RAST (Radioallergosorbent assay) and the ELISA (Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay).  Both the tests detect the presence of IgE antibodies in the blood of patients. They are expensive and the results are not readily available. ‘The newest advanced tests for allergy testing are blood tests that do not require fasting. The skin prick tests has been replaced by blood testing, ‘says Dr Shroff.

Treatment

Medicines given for allergies help reduce the symptoms and the effect of substances released during an allergic reaction on the surrounding tissues. There are different groups of medications given for allergic reactions depending on the allergen triggering the reaction.


  • Antihistamines: These are the most common class of drugs that relieve the symptoms of allergies. They work by blocking the action of substances or molecules called histamines that are released by your system when it detects an allergen. 

  • Decongestants: Decongestants are another class of medicines that may be given to relieve symptoms like nasal congestion often caused by dust allergy or pet allergy. 

  • Corticosteroids: They specifically act on the linings of the nasal passage and airways to clear congestion and reduce respiratory symptoms. Here’s more information on side-effects, interaction and overdose of allergy medicines.


 

The content has been verified by Dr Abha Shroff, chief pathologist and director at Disha Pathology Labs, Mumbai.

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