New Study: Cockroach Allergens Increase Glaucoma Risk
A recent study published in the American Journal of Ophthalmology has reconfirmed that close contact with cockroaches can significantly increase the risk of disease. This time, researchers from the University of California have established that allergens from cockroaches may have certain biochemical and physical properties that target the optic nerve, enhancing the development of glaucoma.
In the study, sufferers of glaucoma exhibited significantly higher levels of a specific type of allergic antibody called immunoglobulin E (lgE), produced by the body in response to cockroach and cat allergens.
Data was collected from 1,678 participants, aged between 50 and 60 years, who were previously tested for allergies caused by dust mites, rodents, cockroaches, cats, and dogs. While 5.1 percent of the people analyzed were diagnosed with glaucoma, 14.3 percent showed significantly elevated levels of lgE to cats and 19.1 percent to cockroaches. Researchers believe that their findings may reinforce the possibility that the immune system plays an important role in the development of glaucoma.
The Glaucoma Research Society of Canada estimates that glaucoma affects more than 400,000 Canadians and 67 million people worldwide, with another 105 million people being suspected or misdiagnosed. The second leading cause of blindness in the world, glaucoma is most often diagnosed in people over 60, diabetics, and patients who are severely nearsighted. Babies and young adults are also at risk: approximately 1 in 10,000 babies born in North America is diagnosed with this condition, while 2.4 percent of young adults ages 18-44 report blindness in one or both eyes as a result of glaucoma.
Cockroach Allergens, More Dangerous than You Think
Aside from being an unsightly and unpleasant pest, cockroaches have numerous negative consequences for human health. Traditionally, they have been controlled because they are offensive, spoil foodstuffs, and leave behind an unpleasant odor, but recent research has revealed that cockroaches are also carriers of serious disease-causing pathogens, including E. coli, Staphylococcus, and Salmonella.
Furthermore, scientists have been able to prove that cockroach debris (body parts, shells, saliva, and droppings) may trigger asthma attacks in people who are sensitized to certain proteins found in cockroach debris. Early exposure to allergens from cockroach body parts, saliva, and feces can actually cause asthma to develop in children ages 3-4, while inhaling particles of cockroach dust can lead to coughing and wheezing in babies less than one year of age.
Cockroach allergens act similarly to dust allergens, attaching themselves to heavier particles in the air and settling on furniture, bedding, flooring, clothes, and any other dust-trapping fabrics. While cockroach allergens are widely distributed throughout the house, the highest concentrations are generally found in kitchens, bathrooms, and other areas in the house where food and moisture are present. At the same time, bedroom allergen concentrations may have more relevance since house inhabitants spend more time close to their pillow and bedding and are more likely to inhale allergens that have settled into the fabrics.
Preventing cockroach allergens from negatively influencing the health of your family can be achieved by following a few simple steps:
- Store food in airtight containers
- Eliminate excess moisture and food spills that foster the growth of cockroaches, as well as that of other pests
- Encase pillows and mattresses and wash bedding in hot water at least once a week
- In homes with allergic individuals, vacuum carpets at least once or twice a week or remove them altogether to minimize exposure to allergens
- For home control of cockroaches, use boric acid and cockroach baits instead of pesticides and other chemical agents that can trigger asthma attacks
If you are currently dealing with a heavy cockroach infestation that puts your family’s health and wellbeing at risk, you shouldn’t attempt to control it yourself. Your first step should be to contact a reputable and experienced pest control company that can help determine the source and size of the infestation and help prevent future outbreaks.
About the Author
Daniel Mackie, co-owner of Greenleaf Pest Control, is a Toronto pest control expert well-known as an industry go-to guy, an innovator of safe, effective pest control solutions, and is a regular guest on HGTV. Mackie, along with business partner Sandy Costa, were the first pest control professionals in Canada to use detection dogs and thermal remediation for the successful eradication of bed bugs. In his free time, he is an avid garder.