Conditions

1 out of 3 preschool children and 2 out of 3 school children with recurrent wheezing/coughing are allergic. Allergy can be described as a malfunction of the human immune system causing a violent reaction against normally harmless substances in our natural environment. The reaction creates an inflammation which, in turn, can lead to a variety of symptoms such as wheezing.

Over the last decade allergy has increased by 18% in the United States. Today one child in four is allergic. Early diagnosis of allergy is important for the development of the child later in life.There are many patients with symptoms suggesting eczema, rhinitis, hay fever, asthma or wheezing. Patients with these conditions may have an allergic condition or other diseases.

Asthma (from the Greek άσθμα, ásthma, “panting”) is the common chronic inflammatory disease of the airways characterized by variable and recurring symptoms, reversible airflow obstruction, and bronchospasm. Symptoms include wheezing, coughing, chest tightness, and shortness of breath. Asthma is clinically classified according to the frequency of symptoms, forced expiratory volume in 1 second (FEV1), and peak expiratory flow rate. Asthma may also be classified as atopic (extrinsic) or non-atopic (intrinsic).

It is thought to be caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Treatment of acute symptoms is usually with an inhaled short-acting beta-2 agonist (such as salbutamol). Symptoms can be prevented by avoiding triggers, such as allergens and irritants, and by inhaling corticosteroids. Leukotriene antagonists are less effective than corticosteroids and thus less preferred.

Its diagnosis is usually made based on the pattern of symptoms and/or response to therapy over time. The prevalence of asthma has increased significantly since the 1970s. As of 2010, 300 million people were affected worldwide. In 2009 asthma caused 250,000 deaths globally. Despite this, with proper control of asthma with step down therapy, prognosis is generally good.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), also known as chronic obstructive lung disease (COLD), chronic obstructive airway disease (COAD), chronic airflow limitation (CAL) and chronic obstructive respiratory disease (CORD), is the co-occurrence of chronic bronchitis and emphysema, a pair of commonly co-existing diseases of the lungs in which the airways become narrowed. This leads to a limitation of the flow of air to and from the lungs, causing shortness of breath (dyspnea). In clinical practice, COPD is defined by its characteristically low airflow on lung function tests. In contrast to asthma, this limitation is poorly reversible and usually gets progressively worse over time. In England, an estimated 842,100 of 50 million people have a diagnosis of COPD.

COPD is caused by noxious particles or gas, most commonly from tobacco smoking, which triggers an abnormal inflammatory response in the lung. The inflammatory response in the larger airways is known as chronic bronchitis, which is diagnosed clinically when people regularly cough up sputum. In the alveoli, the inflammatory response causes destruction of the tissues of the lung, a process known as emphysema. The natural course of COPD is characterized by occasional sudden worsenings of symptoms called acute exacerbations, most of which are caused by infections or air pollution.

The diagnosis of COPD requires lung function tests. Important management strategies are smoking cessation, vaccinations, rehabilitation, and drug therapy (often using inhalers). Some patients go on to require long-term oxygen therapy or lung transplantation.

Worldwide, COPD ranked as the sixth leading cause of death in 1990. It is projected to be the fourth leading cause of death worldwide by 2030 due to an increase in smoking rates and demographic changes in many countries. COPD is the fourth leading cause of death in the U.S. and the economic burden of COPD in the U.S. in 2007 was $42.6 billion in health care costs and lost productivity.

Cystic fibrosis (also known as CF or mucoviscidosis) is a common recessive genetic disease which affects the entire body, causing progressive disability and often early death.

The name cystic fibrosis refers to the characteristic scarring (fibrosis) and cyst formation within the pancreas, first recognized in the 1930s. Difficulty breathing is the most serious symptom and results from frequent lung infections that are treated with, though not cured by, antibiotics and other medications. A multitude of other symptoms, including sinus infections, poor growth, diarrhea, and infertility result from the effects of CF on other parts of the body.

CF is caused by a mutation in the gene for the protein cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR). This gene is required to regulate the components of sweat, digestive juices, and mucus. Although most people without CF have two working copies of the CFTR gene, only one is needed to prevent cystic fibrosis. CF develops when neither gene works normally and therefore has autosomal recessive inheritance.

CF is most common among Caucasians; one in 25 people of European descent carry one allele for CF.

Ireland has both the highest incidence of CF in the world; 2.98 per 10,000 – and the highest carrier rate in the world with 1 in 19 individuals classed as carriers. Cystic fibrosis is Ireland’s most common life-threatening inherited disease. Ireland also has the largest proportion of families with more than one child suffering from CF.

Individuals with cystic fibrosis can be diagnosed before birth by genetic testing, or by a sweat test in early childhood. Ultimately, lung transplantation is often necessary as CF worsens.

Bronchitis is inflammation of the mucous membranes of the bronchi, the airways that carry airflow from the trachea into the lungs. Bronchitis can be divided into two categories, acute and chronic, each of which has unique etiologies, pathologies, and therapies.

Acute bronchitis is characterized by the development of a cough, with or without the production of sputum, mucus that is expectorated (coughed up) from the respiratory tract. Acute bronchitis often occurs during the course of an acute viral illness such as the common cold or influenza. Viruses cause about 90% of cases of acute bronchitis, whereas bacteria account for less than 10%.

Chronic bronchitis, a type of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, is characterized by the presence of a productive cough that lasts for three months or more per year for at least two years. Chronic bronchitis most often develops due to recurrent injury to the airways caused by inhaled irritants. Cigarette smoking is the most common cause, followed by air pollution and occupational exposure to irritants.

A cough (Latin: tussis) is a sudden and often repetitively occurring reflex which helps to clear the large breathing passages from secretions, irritants, foreign particles and microbes. The cough reflex consists of three phases: an inhalation, a forced exhalation against a closed glottis, and a violent release of air from the lungs following opening of the glottis, usually accompanied by a distinctive sound. Coughing can happen voluntarily as well as involuntarily.

Frequent coughing usually indicates the presence of a disease. Many viruses and bacteria benefit evolutionarily by causing the host to cough, which helps to spread the disease to new hosts. Most of the time, coughing is caused by a respiratory tract infection but can be triggered by choking, smoking, air pollution, asthma, gastroesophageal reflux disease, post-nasal drip, chronic bronchitis, lung tumors, heart failure and medications such as ACE inhibitors.

Treatment should target the cause; for example, smoking cessation or discontinuing ACE inhibitors. Some people may be worried about serious illnesses, and reassurance may suffice. Cough suppressants such as codeine or dextromethorphan are frequently prescribed, but have been demonstrated to have little effect. Other treatment options may target airway inflammation or may promote mucus expectoration. As it is a natural protective reflex, suppressing the cough reflex might have deleterious effects, especially if the cough is productive.

Sinusitis is inflammation of the paranasal sinuses, which may be due to infection, allergy, or autoimmune issues. Most cases are due to a viral infection and resolve over the course of 10 days. It is a common condition; for example, in the United States more than 24 million cases occur annually.

Rhinitis, commonly known as a stuffy nose, is the medical term describing irritation and inflammation of some internal areas of the nose. The primary symptom of rhinitis is nasal dripping. It is caused by chronic or acute inflammation of the mucous membrane of the nose due to viruses, bacteria or irritants. The inflammation results in the generating of excessive amounts of mucus, commonly producing the aforementioned runny nose, as well as nasal congestion and post-nasal drip. According to recent studies completed in the United States, more than 50 million Americans are current sufferers. Rhinitis has also been found to adversely affect more than just the nose, throat, and eyes. It has been associated with sleeping problems, ear conditions, and even learning problems. Rhinitis is caused by an increase in histamine, which is most often triggered by airborne allergens. These allergens may affect an individual’s nose, throat, or eyes and cause an increase in fluid production within these areas.

Otitis is a general term for inflammation or infection of the ear, in both humans and other animals.

Emphysema is a long-term, progressive disease of the lungs that primarily causes shortness of breath. In people with emphysema, the tissues necessary to support the physical shape and function of the lungs are destroyed. It is included in a group of diseases called chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD (pulmonary refers to the lungs). Emphysema is called an obstructive lung disease because the destruction of lung tissue around smaller sacs, called alveoli, makes these air sacs unable to hold their functional shape upon exhalation. It is often caused by long-term exposure to air pollution or smoking.

Pneumocystis pneumonia (PCP) or pneumocystosis is a form of pneumonia, caused by the yeast-like fungus (which had previously been erroneously classified as a protozoan) Pneumocystis jirovecii. This pathogen is specific to humans; it has not been shown to infect other animals, while other species of Pneumocystis that parasitize other animals have not been shown to infect humans.

Pneumocystis is commonly found in the lungs of healthy people, but being a source of opportunistic infection it can cause a lung infection in people with a weak immune system. Pneumocystis pneumonia is especially seen in people with cancer, HIV/AIDS and the use of medications that affect the immune system.

Snoring is the vibration of respiratory structures and the resulting sound, due to obstructed air movement during breathing while sleeping. In some cases the sound may be soft, but in other cases, it can be loud and unpleasant. Snoring during sleep may be a sign, or first alarm, of obstructive sleep apnea.

A U.S. study estimates that roughly one in every 15 Americans is affected by at least a moderate degree of sleep apnea.

A wheeze (formally called “sibilant rhonchi” in medical terminology) is a continuous, coarse, whistling sound produced in the respiratory airways during breathing. For wheezes to occur, some part of the respiratory tree must be narrowed or obstructed, or airflow velocity within the respiratory tree must be heightened. Wheezing is commonly experienced by persons with a lung disease; the most common cause of recurrent wheezing is asthma attacks, though it can also be a symptom of lung cancer.

Sleep apnea (or sleep apnoea in Great Britain; English pronunciation: /æpˈniːə/) is a sleep disorder characterized by abnormal pauses in breathing or instances of abnormally low breathing, during sleep. Each pause in breathing, called an apnea, can last from a few seconds to minutes, and may occur 5 to 30 times or more an hour. Similarly, each abnormally low breathing event is called a hypopnea. Sleep apnea is diagnosed with an overnight sleep test called a polysomnogram, or “sleep study”.

There are three forms of sleep apnea: central (CSA), obstructive (OSA), and complex or mixed sleep apnea (i.e., a combination of central and obstructive) constituting 0.4%, 84% and 15% of cases respectively. In CSA, breathing is interrupted by a lack of respiratory effort; in OSA, breathing is interrupted by a physical block to airflow despite respiratory effort, and snoring is common.

Regardless of type, an individual with sleep apnea is rarely aware of having difficulty breathing, even upon awakening. Sleep apnea is recognized as a problem by others witnessing the individual during episodes or is suspected because of its effects on the body (sequelae). Symptoms may be present for years (or even decades) without identification, during which time the sufferer may become conditioned to the daytime sleepiness and fatigue associated with significant levels of sleep disturbance.

Insomnia (or sleeplessness) is most often defined by an individual’s report of sleeping difficulties. While the term is sometimes used in sleep literature to describe a disorder demonstrated by polysomnographic evidence of disturbed sleep, insomnia is often defined as a positive response to either of two questions: “Do you experience difficulty sleeping?” or “Do you have difficulty falling or staying asleep?”

Thus, insomnia is most often thought of as both a sign and a symptom that can accompany several sleep, medical, and psychiatric disorders, characterized by persistent difficulty falling asleep and/or staying asleep or sleep of poor quality. Insomnia is typically followed by functional impairment while awake. One definition of insomnia is difficulties initiating and/or maintaining sleep, or nonrestorative sleep, associated with impairments of daytime functioning or marked distress for more than 1 month.”

Insomnia can be grouped into primary and secondary, or comorbid, insomnia. Primary insomnia is a sleep disorder not attributable to a medical, psychiatric, or environmental cause.

There are several different types of dermatitis. The different kinds usually have in common an allergic reaction to specific allergens. The term may describe eczema, which is also called dermatitis eczema and eczematous dermatitis. An eczema diagnosis often implies atopic dermatitis (which is very common in children and teenagers) but, without proper context, may refer to any kind of dermatitis.

In some languages, dermatitis and eczema are synonyms, while in other languages dermatitis implies an acute condition and eczema a chronic one. The two conditions are often classified together.

Stress is a term in psychology and biology, borrowed from physics and engineering and first used in the biological context in the 1930s, which has in more recent decades become commonly used in popular parlance. It refers to the consequence of the failure of an organism — human or other animal — to respond adequately to mental, emotional, or physical demands, whether actual or imagined.

Signs of stress may be cognitive, emotional, physical, or behavioral. Signs include poor judgment, a general negative outlook, excessive worrying, moodiness, irritability, agitation, inability to relax, feeling lonely, isolated or depressed, acne, aches and pains, diarrhea or constipation, nausea, dizziness, chest pain, rapid heartbeat, eating too much or not enough, sleeping too much or not enough, social withdrawal, procrastination or neglect of responsibilities, increased alcohol, nicotine or drug consumption, and nervous habits such as pacing about, nail-biting, and neck pains.

Anxiety (also called angst or worry) is a psychological and physiological state characterized by somatic, emotional, cognitive, and behavioral components. The root meaning of the word anxiety is ‘to vex or trouble’; in either presence or absence of psychological stress, anxiety can create feelings of fear, worry, uneasiness, and dread. Anxiety is considered to be a normal reaction to a stressor. It may help someone to deal with a difficult situation by prompting them to cope with it. When anxiety becomes excessive, it may fall under the classification of an anxiety disorder.

Depression is a state of low mood and aversion to activity that can affect a person’s thoughts, behaviour, feelings and physical well-being. Depressed people may feel sad, anxious, empty, hopeless, helpless, worthless, guilty, irritable, or restless. They may lose interest in activities that once were pleasurable, experience loss of appetite or overeating, or problems concentrating, remembering details or making decisions; and may contemplate or attempt suicide. Insomnia, excessive sleeping, fatigue, loss of energy, or aches, pains or digestive problems that are resistant to treatment may be present.

Psoriasis is a chronic immune-mediated disease that appears on the skin. It occurs when the immune system sends out faulty signals that speed up the growth cycle of skin cells. Psoriasis is not contagious. However, psoriasis has been linked to an increased risk of stroke. There are five types of psoriasis: plaque, guttate, inverse, pustular and erythrodermic. The most common form, plaque psoriasis, is commonly seen as red and white hues of scaly patches appearing on the top first layer of the epidermis (skin). Some patients, though, have no dermatological symptoms.

In plaque psoriasis, skin rapidly accumulates at these sites, which gives it a silvery-white appearance. Plaques frequently occur on the skin of the elbows and knees, but can affect any area, including the scalp, palms of hands and soles of feet, and genitals. In contrast to eczema, psoriasis is more likely to be found on the outer side of the joint.

The disorder is a chronic recurring condition that varies in severity from minor localized patches to complete body coverage. Fingernails and toenails are frequently affected (psoriatic nail dystrophy) and can be seen as an isolated symptom. Psoriasis can also cause inflammation of the joints, which is known as psoriatic arthritis. Between 10% and 40% of all people with psoriasis have psoriatic arthritis.

The cause of psoriasis is not fully understood, but it is believed to have a genetic component and local psoriatic changes can be triggered by an injury to the skin known as the Koebner phenomenon. Various environmental factors have been suggested as aggravating to psoriasis, including stress, withdrawal of systemic corticosteroid, as well as other environmental factors, but few have shown statistical significance. There are many treatments available, but because of its chronic recurrent nature, psoriasis is a challenge to treat. Withdrawal of corticosteroids (topical steroid cream) can aggravate the condition due to the ‘rebound effect’ of corticosteroids but this may be followed by cure.

Eczema (From Greek ἔκζεμα ēkzema, ‘to boil over’) is a form of dermatitis, or inflammation of the epidermis (the outer layer of the skin). In England, an estimated 5,773,700 or about one in every nine people have been diagnosed with the disease by a clinician at some point in their lives.

The term eczema is broadly applied to a range of persistent skin conditions. These include dryness and recurring skin rashes that are characterized by one or more of these symptoms: redness, skin edema (swelling), itching and dryness, crusting, flaking, blistering, cracking, oozing, or bleeding. Areas of temporary skin discoloration may appear and are sometimes due to healed injuries. Scratching open a healing lesion may result in scarring and may enlarge the rash.

The word ‘eczema’ comes from Greek words, that mean ‘to boil over’. Dermatitis’ comes from the Greek word for skin – and both terms refer to exactly the same skin condition. In some languages, dermatitis and “eczema” are synonymous, while in other languages “dermatitis” implies an acute condition and “eczema” a chronic one. The two conditions are often classified together.

Acne is a general term used for acneiform eruptions. Acneiform eruption refers to a group of dermatoses including acne vulgaris, rosacea, folliculitis, and perioral dermatitis. Restated, acneiform eruptions are follicular eruptions characterized by papules and pustules resembling acne. The term “acneiform”, literally, refers to an appearance similar to acne.

The terminology used in this field can be complex, and occasionally contradictory. Some sources consider acne vulgaris part of the differential diagnosis for an acneiform eruption. Other sources classified acne vulgaris under acneiform eruption. MeSH explicitly excludes perioral dermatitis from the category of “acneiform eruptions”, though it does group acneiform eruptions and perioral dermatitis together under “facial dermatoses”.