Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Medical Dilemmas ...

Those who suffer allergic reactions are familiar with the need to take loads of antihistamines to suppress the reaction. Mine is an annual bout of battling pollen, and a month on antihistamines which always makes me wish someone would find a 'cure'. There are some supposed 'cures' but they are also high-risk and don't always work.

Some years ago I learned that Hayfever, Asthma and Eczema are all caused by the same gene defect, but it is rare for someone suffering from the first of these to develop the other two. Unfortunately, those who develop Eczema frequently also develop Asthma and it can get even more complex. Medical science focuses on treating the symptoms of these ailments, rather than treating the cause - difficult when it is caused by the bodies own defences 'reacting' to a non-infectious agent such as pollen. My own allergies are house dust and grass pollen, though I seem to be reacting to a few other species of pollen lately as well. Other folk react to animal hair, certain foods (some folk get migraines from eating chocolate) and a wide range of other 'trigger' substances.

Part of the problem, of course, is that we are basically 'Mk I' humans, and though we have adapted our environs, our genes haven't yet adapted to many of the things those adaptations have introduced. Add to that, the damage we take from various illnesses we suffer, exposure to some substances in our careers, or inadvertantly in our homes, and the cumulation means we wind up allergic to something.

Step forward the pharmaceutical industry.

While many ailments can be cured, others have to be 'managed' by palliative treatments. Like my hay fever. I dose myself with an antihistamine preparation which - most of the time - relieves the symptoms. I also resort to some 'old fashioned' practices, like flushing my nose with salt water, and, more recently, using a 'wand' type device which is inserted into the nostrils and bathes the reacting mucosa in red light. It is a case of just trying to get through the worst of the season as best one can - which is what our ancestors did for much of the time I suspect. I know many of mine resorted to becoming seafarers - no pollen at sea at least.

Now the problem with daily doses of antihistamine is that it affects more than just the parts of the system that are responding to the pollen. It affects the whole of the immune system. So, if you also suffer from some other underlying conditions, you reduce the bodies natural response to those as well. This is why I tend to 'take the meds' only when I'm already pretty desperate, which, of course, means they are much less effective. While Hayfever is very common, it isn't the focus of a great deal of research. Why? Largely because there is more money to be made in already available preparations which deal with the symptoms, than in trying to find a way to cure it.

That leads me to a recent article on treatments for cancer which is based on boosting the immune system. The problem with cancer cells is that they generate an agent which 'blocks' the immune system and prevents it from acting to destroy the cancer cell. So the discovery of that, and the development of the means to 'boost' the immune system so it does attack tumours is a major step forward. But now comes my question - how will this work for someone who needs to take an immune system suppressing agents to control - for example - Hayfever?

Perhaps it is time the pharmaceutical industry did take a look at finding ways to treat those of us who are sensitive to pollen, dust and other 'particulates'. Hayfever, Asthma and Eczema are possibly the most common allergy conditions in every population group. Yes, we are a lovely 'cash cow' for all the preparations we have little choice but to use when our 'affliction is upon us', but, since it is already known which gene causes it, and what the 'defect' looks like - why, of why, can't someone come up with a proper cure?

Could some 'researcher' reading this give it some thought please?

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