Allergic conditions exact a heavy toll, says specialist

October 11, 2005

Allergic diseases are the sixth leading cause of chronic disease in the United States and cost the health-care system more than $18 billion a year. But despite the seriousness suggested by these numbers, many people don't understand how deflating allergies can be to quality of life for patients and families, according to Mark Boguniewicz, MD, professor at Denver's National Jewish Medical and Research Center.

Allergic diseases are the sixth leading cause of chronic disease in the United States and cost the health-care system more than $18 billion a year. But despite the seriousness suggested by these numbers, many people don't understand how deflating allergies can be to quality of life for patients and families, according to Mark Boguniewicz, MD, professor at Denver's National Jewish Medical and Research Center.

Dr. Boguniewicz, a specialist in allergy and immunology, spoke about the burden of allergic conditions at a Monday dinner session during the American Academy of Pediatrics' (AAP) National Conference and Exhibition. The session was sponsored through an unrestricted educational grant from Nestle Nutrition Institute, Nestle, USA.

He noted, for example, that some children with atopic dermatitis go for years without sleeping through the night. And the parents, typically the moms, break down in tears when asked about that aspect of the disease.

The prevalence of atopic dermatitis has continued to increase. Dr. Boguniewicz called the impact on the patient dealing with this often torturous and disfiguring condition greater than that seen with psoriasis or insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus.

Food allergies affect 6% to 8% of young children, according to Dr. Boguniewicz. He challenged anyone who thinks these allergies don't impact families to undertake the painstaking journey of label-reading with a parent who is trying to buy groceries.

"Despite advances in our understanding of disease processes and development of safer and more effective therapies, allergic diseases have increased globally," Dr. Boguniewicz told the audience. He urged that more research be conducted on primary prevention measures to keep at-risk infants from developing these conditions.