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Allergen: A substance that triggers an allergic reaction.

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Allergic Rhinitis: An allergy affecting the mucus membrane of the nose. Seasonal allergic rhinitis is often called "hay fever."

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Allergist: A doctor that diagnoses, treats, and manages allergy-related conditions.

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Ana-Kit: A device used to inject epinephrine during an anaphylaxis attack.

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Anaphylaxis: A life-threatening allergic reaction that involves the entire body. Anaphylaxis may result in shock or death, and thus requires immediate medical attention

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Animal dander: The small scales or pieces of skin, often containing proteins secreted by oil glands, which are shed by an animal. These proteins are the major causes of allergies to pets.

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Antibiotics: A class of medications used to treat bacterial infections. Certain antibiotics, such as penicillin, may cause an allergic reaction in some people.

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Antibody: A protein in the immune system that recognizes and attacks foreign substances in the body.

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Anticonvulsant: A medication used to prevent or treat seizures. Certain anticonvulsants may cause an allergic reaction in some people.

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Antihistamines: A class of medications used to block the action of histamines in the body and prevent the symptoms of an allergic reaction.

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Asthma: An inflammatory disorder of the airways, causing periodic attacks of wheezing, coughing, chest tightness, and shortness of breath.

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Atopic dermatitis: A chronic skin rash, also known as "eczema," that often appears in the first few years of life.

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Basophil: An immune system cell that attaches to antibodies and circulates through out the blood.

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Beta-blockers: A class of blood pressure medications that ease the heart's pumping action and widen the blood vessels. Beta-blockers counteract the effects of epinephrine used for emergency treatment of anaphylactic shock and should not be used during immunotherapy.

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Bronchial tubes: The lower sections of the airway that lead into the lungs.

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Challenge test: A test used to confirm an allergy to specific substance. A doctor will administer small but increasing amounts of a suspected allergen until an allergic response is noticed. Due to the risk of anaphylaxis, this should only be performed under a controlled setting.

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Conjunctivitis: Inflammation of the conjunctiva, or the mucous membrane surrounding the eye. Also known as pinkeye.

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Contact dermatitis: An allergic reaction resulting from skin contact to an allergen.

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Corticosteroid: An anti-inflammatory medication used to treat the itching and swelling associated with some allergic reactions.

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Cromolym sodium: An anti-inflammatory nasal spray used to treat and sometimes prevent allergic rhinitis.

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Decongestants: A class of medications used for nasal congestion. Decongestants are available in oral doses, nasal sprays, or eye drops (for conjunctivitis).

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Dust mites: A microscopic organism that lives in dust.

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Eczema: See Atopic dermatitis.

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Eosinophil: A specific type of immune cell that can cause tissue damage in the late phase of an allergic reaction.

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Epinepherine: A medication used for immediate treatment of anaphylaxis by raising blood pressure and heart rate back to normal levels. Epinepherine is also known as adrenaline.

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EpiPen: A device used to inject epinephrine during an anaphylaxis attack.

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Heparin: A chemical released by basophils and mast cells that causes nearby tissues to become swollen and inflamed.

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Histamine: A chemical released by basophils and mast cells that causes nearby tissues to become swollen and inflamed.

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Hives: See urticaria.

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Hypertension: High blood pressure. When blood pushes against artery walls harder than normal.

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Immunoglobulin E: A type of antibody responsible for most allergic reactions.

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Immunotherapy: A series of shots that help build up the immune system's tolerance to an allergen.

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Insulin: A hormone that regulates blood sugar levels. Diabetics who take insulin derived from animals may have allergic reactions.

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Intradermal test: A test where an allergen is injected just underneath the skin. Intradermal tests are generally used when results from a skin prick test are unclear.

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Late Phase: The period 4 - 24 hours after exposure to an allergen where tissue damage may occur.

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Leukotrienes: Inflammatory substances that are released by mast cells during an allergic response or asthma attack.

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Lymphocyte: A specific type of immune cell that can cause tissue damage in the late phase of an allergic reaction.

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Mast cell: An immune system cell which attaches to antibodies and is located in the tissue that lines the nose, bronchial tubes, gastrointestinal tract, and the skin

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Neocromil sodium: An inhaled medication used to treat inflammation involved with asthma.

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Neutrophil: A specific type of immune cell that can cause tissue damage in the late phase of an allergic reaction.

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Otitis media: A middle ear infection. Otitis media with effusion occurs when fluid builds up within the ear.

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Radioallergosorbant Test (RAST): A blood test that measures the amount of IgE antibody produced when the sample is mixed with a specific allergen.

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Rhinitis: An inflammation of the nasal passageways, particularly with discharge.

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Sinusitis: An inflammation or infection of one or more sinuses. The sinuses are hollow air spaces located around the nose and eyes.

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Skin prick test: A test where a needle is used to scratch the skin with a small amount of allergen. A response can usually be seen within 15 - 20 minutes.

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Urticaria: Raised areas of the skin that are often red, warm, and itchy. Urticaria is also known as hives.

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Urushiol: An oil found on poison ivy, oak, and sumac.

Even after a diagnosis of osteoarthritis, individuals can continue to lead a full and active life.

In addition to various self-treatments such as exercise and medical treatments such as injections into a joint, people can take other measures to live with osteoarthritis. These measures include:

  • Joint protection
  • Assistive devices
  • Help from health care professionals
  • Developing a self-management program

By learning about osteoarthritis and educating oneself about its treatment, you can improve your lifestyle and have a new sense of purpose. Your health care provider is a helpful resource.

Some individuals explore other treatments, including unproven "remedies." While some of these options are safe, others can cause harm. It's prudent to explore the facts and risks before trying such options.

Joint protection

Joint protection begins with learning new ways to use the arthritic joint. Joint stress and strain can be limited by following a few simple rules.

For the upper body joints:

  • Avoid overburdening small and weaker joints by using larger joints to carry heavy things. For example, carry shopping bags using the forearms or palms of the hands, rather than the fingers.
  • Avoid neck strain by placing reading material or work objects at eye level. Don't look up or down for long periods of time.
  • Relieve finger joint strain by using extra-thick pens when writing.
  • Wear thick gloves to reduce joint strain when a tight grip is needed to hold a tool, heavy pot, or other object.
  • Increase leverage by using long-handled tools and reaching devices when performing activities such as gardening, housework, and retrieving objects from high places.

For the lower body joints:

  • Bend at the knees and straighten the legs (while keeping the back straight) to lift objects from the ground if back pain is a problem.
  • Get up from a chair by sliding forward to the chair's edge, keeping the feet flat on the floor, and using the palms of the hands to push against the chair's arms or seat. Stand up by straightening the hips and knee. Use higher seats rather than deep, soft sofas.
  • Never squat or kneel, as these positions strain the hips and knees.
  • Maintain good posture to avoid putting stress on the joints.
  • Wear well-cushioned athletic shoes with good arch support whenever possible. If dress shoes must be worn, women should choose styles with heels that are no higher than one inch. Men should choose lace-up rather than slip-on styles, which provide less support.
  • Use support devices (cane, walker) if necessary, to reduce strain on the hips and knees when walking. A cane should be held in the opposite hand to the hip or knee affected.

Assistive devices

Assistive devices can help people with arthritis to perform everyday tasks. Such devices include:

  • Canes, walkers, and other walking aids
  • Cervical collars
  • Special pillows
  • Back braces and supports
  • Splints
  • Jar openers
  • Faucet turners
  • Door knob turners
  • Footstools
  • Key turners
  • Writing devices
  • Reaching devices
  • Shoe inserts
  • Bookstands
  • Bathroom equipment (such as raised toilet seats, handrails by toilet and shower)

Many of these devices -- such as splints used to rest sore joints -- should be prescribed by a physician and fitted by an expert. (NOTE: The products above are listed for informational purposes only. Endorsement is not implied.)

Help from healthcare professionals

In addition to family physicians, internists, and rheumatologists (specialists in connective tissue disorders), many other healthcare professionals are available to help arthritis sufferers who have difficulties performing everyday activities. Such individuals are, in fact, essential to a comprehensive arthritis treatment plan. They include:

  • Physical therapists and physiatrists
  • Occupational therapists
  • Nurses
  • Pharmacists
  • Dietitians
  • Psychiatrists and psychologists
  • Social workers

Physical therapists and nurses often have solutions for problems with daily activities (walking, dressing, climbing stairs, bathing), and they can offer ways to cope with disability. In addition, they can provide instruction about joint protection and suggest appropriate aids and assistive devices protection.

Occupational therapists are able to assess the home and recommend changes that can make it safer, more comfortable, and easier to get around.

Psychiatrist, psychologists, and social workers can help individuals to cope with stress, and they can advise both patients and families about the emotional adjustments needed for the new circumstances presented by arthritis.

Developing a self-management program

Self-management is perhaps the most significant factor in controlling osteoarthritis. A person who anticipates problems and makes lifestyle changes is better able to achieve control. In addition, sharing information with a physician will help to thwart potential difficulties and make the most of available treatments.

Arthritis education is key. Many programs are available through the Arthritis Foundation and other resources. For the best results, it is advisable to learn:

  • Symptom management skills to lessen pain by exercising, using heat or cold, or other strategies.
  • Coping skills to help contend with the arthritis-related changes, including changes in appearance, mood, or levels of pain and stress.
  • Activity planning, so that if symptoms are problematic, activities are planned for the best times or days.

Another simple but effective tool is a personal journal. A small book or log can be used to record both good and bad responses to treatment. The journal can be brought to a physician and reviewed. In this way, the person and his or her physician can both cooperate in the treatment program and overcome any problems that may arise.

Helpful Handouts

Click to see an example of a Personal journal.

 

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Review Date: 11/22/2006

Reviewed By: Alan Greene, M.D., F.A.A.P., Stanford University School of Medicine; Chief Medical Officer, A.D.A.M., Inc.


The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

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