Spring is here! But it brings more than warm weather. Flowers. Pollen. Insects. It’s time to battle lupus AND allergies.
An allergy is a reaction by your immune system to a stimulus that does not bother other people. An allergen is, simply, a personal trigger that sends your immune system into full protection mode.
This can be problematic for people with lupus because lupus is an autoimmune disease. The body of a person with lupus already struggles to discern foreign invaders from healthy tissues.
Some of the symptoms can be similar, and there are plenty of anecdotes about people developing lupus flares because of allergic reactions to other stimuli — however this relationship is not backed up by research. Allergic reactions run from mild, like rashes or hives, to incredibly serious, like anaphylactic shock.
The most common allergens are:
- NSAIDS (ibuprofen and aspirin)
- sulfa drugs
- Environmental Triggers
- pet dander
Do people with lupus have more allergies?
Since both lupus and allergies impact the immune system, it is interesting to look at the prevalence of allergies in people with lupus. A 1993 study found that drug, skin, and insect allergies were more frequent in people with lupus.
In the study, 63% of people with SLE had some type of allergic disorder — or 83 out of 117 participants. Only 38% of control subjects who had non-lupus disorders.
Interestingly, the allergies were not confined to the individual with lupus. The families of participants with lupus were also statistically more likely to have allergies. The authors note that this suggests that there is a genetic influence in SLE patients – particularly since this familial link was nonexistent for other conditions like rhinitis.
Is an allergy a precursor to lupus?
In 72% of patients with a history of allergies, the first allergic reaction occurred before they were diagnosed with lupus. And, 15% of people experienced their first allergic reaction within a year of being diagnosed with lupus.
However, this data is based upon questionnaire responses. It is possible that timelines were misremembered or that true first-reactions were not perceived as such.