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Gerontology. 2014;60(2):99-107. doi: 10.1159/000355307. Epub 2013 Dec 3.

Allergic disorders at a venerable age: a mini-review.

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  • 1Department of Pediatrics, National Jewish Health, University of Colorado School of Medicine, Denver, Colo., USA.


This review focuses on 3 allergic disorders of persons coming up against venerable age: asthma, allergic rhinitis, and atopic dermatitis. The prevalence of allergic diseases in the elderly ranges from 5 to 10% and appears to be rising. A gradual decline in immune function, termed immunosenescence, and age-related changes in tissue structure influence the development of these disorders. Common complications are comorbidities, polypharmacy, and adverse effects of drugs. The elderly have difficulty mounting protective immune responses against newly encountered antigens. The integrity of epithelial barriers is compromised, leading to a chronic, subclinical inflammatory state and an enhanced Th2 (allergic) immune response. Undiagnosed asthma is frequent in elderly persons (about 8%) and still more commonplace in those with respiratory symptoms. Poorly controlled asthma in the elderly undermines their functional status and leads to a loss of autonomy and social isolation that may delay seeking medical services. Aggravation of allergic rhinitis coincides with exacerbation of asthma, whereas treatment of nasal inflammation improves control of the asthma. Atopic dermatitis is a chronically relapsing inflammatory skin disease often associated with respiratory allergy.

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