Most folks are familiar with the havoc that high pollen levels can wreak on their lungs, but new research suggests they can also exacerbate a painful pelvic condition in some people.
"Our study provides evidence to suggest increased pollen counts may trigger symptom flares in people living with UCPPS [urologic chronic pelvic pain syndrome]," said researcher Siobhan Sutcliffe, of Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.
"If the association with pollen levels is confirmed through future studies, it may help us to understand how flares occur in individuals with urologic chronic pelvic pain, as well as how to prevent or treat these otherwise unpredictable attacks," she added.
The syndrome causes pelvic or bladder pain and urinary symptoms, which can be frequent and disabling. Also, patients report higher than average rates of allergies and asthma. And some patients find their symptoms improve when they take allergy medications.
For the study, published Jan. 5 in the Journal of Urology, researchers collected data on nearly 300 patients who took part in a chronic pelvic pain study.
The investigators found that when pollen counts rose beyond the medium or high threshold, flares increased.
In the day or two after pollen counts rose above the medium or higher threshold, the odds of a symptom flare increased 22% in all patients with the pelvic pain syndrome, and by 33% in those with allergies, according to the findings.
Flares also increased in the three weeks after pollen counts exceeded medium or high levels, with a 23% increase for patients with allergies, the researchers found.
"If pollen does indeed trigger flares for some patients with urologic chronic pelvic pain, that might have implications for further research and patient care," Sutcliffe said in a journal news release. "For example, patients may benefit from taking antihistamines on days with high pollen levels, or from allergy testing and immunotherapy."
For more on urologic chronic pelvic pain syndrome, see the University of California, San Francisco.
SOURCE: Journal of Urology, news release, Jan. 5, 2021