The Differences Between Allergists & Primary Care Physicians
If you're looking to better understand allergies or asthma, an allergist may be the answer. An allergist is a medical professional who specializes in diagnosing, treating, and managing allergies and asthma. They use a variety of tests and procedures to diagnose an allergy or assess your overall health. In this blog post, we'll explore the different roles an allergist may play in helping manage your health.
Allergists and immunologists are specially trained physicians who help with many varied and intriguing health problems. We act as detectives to listen to patients and ask questions to elicit the clues we need to order the right tests to find out the allergic cause of your symptoms if one exists. We then discuss the results with you and provide the most effective treatment plan. Patients seek us out or are referred by their own doctors for help in trying to figure out the causes of many problems and preventing recurrences.
Understanding Allergic Reactions
Allergic reactions are an overreaction of the body’s immune system to “allergens” that non-allergic individuals cope with comfortably. We like to explain to patients that the allergist or immunologist most often deals with conditions affecting the places where the environment and the body come into contact. This involves the surfaces of the eyes, nose, sinuses, oral cavity and throat, GI tract, and lungs.
These exposures to “allergens” lead to the irritation, known as inflammation, of these linings, producing itching, burning, swelling, redness, and/or pain, and complaints that are specific to the organ or tissue involved – eye tearing, nasal congestion and drip, headache, sinus pressure, recurrent coughing, shortness of breath, wheezing, mucous production, hives, and GI upset.
What’s Bothering You?
Symptoms can be caused by many different allergens, ranging from food and pollen to pet dander and dust mites. They can cause a range of symptoms, including sneezing, itchy eyes, coughing, and difficulty breathing. Severe allergies can even lead to anaphylaxis or other life-threatening reactions.
Our patients often struggle with one of the following three:
- Most people think of us for the evaluation and treatment of conditions brought on by seasonal changes, like those due to the pollens released into the air that lead to seasonal allergic rhinitis and conjunctivitis or “hayfever”. They are problematic at different times of the year, depending on the part of the country where you live. While it will vary from one region to the next, common spring allergens include tree pollen, with grasses in summer and weed pollens in fall.
- Many problems are chronic in nature and occur year-round. Environmental exposures in the home, workplaces, or even school, such as dust, mold, and animal dander, can lead to persistent or recurrent nasal, chest, or skin symptoms due to perennial allergic rhinitis, asthma, sinus headache and pressure, and skin rashes.
- Allergists are deeply involved with all the facets of treating asthma. We look for clues to understand the triggers for the “acute attacks” or ongoing coughing, wheezing, chest tightness, and shortness of breath that can lead to hospital visits.
Breaking Down Immunology
Immunology is at the heart of all disease. As immunologists, we try to understand the body’s immune system and specifically why someone gets recurrent, persistent, or unusual infections. We look for Primary Immune Deficiency diseases. These are generally rare disorders brought on by a defect in the immune system.
We help patients with immediate allergic reactions leading to potentially serious outcomes such as life-threatening anaphylaxis, food allergies, drug allergies, and bee sting allergies. Our allergists have an in-depth understanding of the allergic and immune responses that explain the “how and why” we get sick and offer different treatment options.
Not only do allergists and immunologists prescribe medications, but we may be able to effectively “desensitize” a person to the allergens that cause their symptoms. This differentiates what we can do from other physicians. Desensitization involves slowly introducing small amounts of the allergen into the body to slowly change or suppress the over-reactive, allergic state into a tolerant one. This classically involves allergy injections, but newer methods include sublingual or ingestion approaches.
Additionally, new understandings of the immune system have led to a new class of “biologics” – treatments that can selectively interfere with the inflammatory immune response in order to prevent symptoms, while keeping the immune system’s essential functions intact. The successes these approaches bring about are some of the most rewarding aspects of what we can do.
Schedule an Appointment with Allergy Partners
To learn more about allergists and why Allergy Partners is the leading national provider of allergy and asthma care, find a location near you to schedule an appointment for allergy testing with your local Allergy partners team today. Our local allergists are backed by our national network of board-certified immunologists, so you can rest assured you’ll be in great hands.
Allergy Partners is not only the largest national organization of allergists and immunologists but also part of a worldwide community of researchers and clinicians devoted to the understanding and treatment of allergic and primary immune disorders.