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Allergies, Immunoglobulin E, & Lupus Symptoms

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Spring brings more than warm weather. Flowers, pollen, and insects can add allergies to the mix for Lupus Warriors.

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. Additionally, the symptoms between the two can be similar.

Allergic reactions range from mild, like rashes or hives, to incredibly serious, like anaphylactic shock. People with severe allergic reactions may need to carry an epinephrine autoinjector (better known as the brand name EpiPen). The most common allergens are:

  • Food
    • eggs
    • milk
    • shellfish
    • nuts
    • peanuts
    • soy
    • wheat
  • Medications
    • NSAIDS (ibuprofen and aspirin)
    • penicillin
    • sulfa drugs
  • Environmental Triggers
    • pollen
    • trees
    • mold
    • pet dander
    • smoke

Diving deeper into allergies

Lupus isn’t the only condition with a genetic component. Allergies have a heritability component, too. The predisposition towards developing certain allergic diseases, like atopic dermatitis and asthma, is known at atopy. Interestingly, the word ‘atopy’ comes from a Greek word meaning ‘extraordinary’ or ‘uncommon.’

Traditionally, ‘atopy’ applies only to IgE-mediated allergic reactions. IgE stands for Immunoglobulin E. IgE are a type of antibody created by the immune system. When an allergen is detected, the immune system overreacts and produces IgE. The antibodies bind with the perceived invaders and release chemicals, like histamine, which lead to the allergy symptoms.

Different types of IgE are responsive to different allergens. That’s why it’s possible to be allergic to one thing or many — it depends on the number of types of IgE in the body.

There are also non-IgE-mediated allergic reactions. Common examples of these are food allergies that occur in the gastrointestinal tract with symptoms like:

  • bloating
  • diarrhea
  • vomiting

Non-IgE reactions show up later, usually hours or days after exposure to an allergen. In contrast, IgE allergic reactions frequently show up within minutes of exposure.

Hypersensitivity reactions are further broken down into different types based on the biological mechanism that is triggered. You can learn more here.


Do people with lupus have more allergies?

It is interesting to look at the prevalence of allergies in people with lupus because both impact the immune system. A 1993 study found that allergies were more frequent in people with lupus when compared to control participants.

In the study, 63% of people with SLE had some type of allergic disorder (83 out of 117 participants). compared to ~30% for the control subjects. Also, Lupus Warriors were more likely to have drug allergies, skin allergies, and insect allergies.

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.


Identifying allergies

The first step in fighting allergies is knowing your personal triggers. Allergy tests and elimination diets are two common ways to check your body’s reaction to stimuli.

During an allergy skin test, the skin of the back or forearm is pricked slightly with a needle that contains some of a suspected antigen. Then, you look for a response. (Note: some medications can interfere with this testing method, but it is typically an economical place to start)

Elimination diets are a common way to check yourself for food allergies. As the name suggests, you remove particular foods from the diet, then reintroduce them back into your diet slowly, and one at a time. As you reintroduce foods, you take note of any new symptoms that appear.

Once you have created a personal list of triggers, you can work to avoid the allergens when possible. For unavoidable allergens, it may be necessary to try over-the-counter allergy relief, prescription products, or even carry an EpiPen. Before starting medications, check with your lupus treatment team to reduce the risk of interactions.

Comments (17)

17 thoughts on “Allergies, Immunoglobulin E, & Lupus Symptoms

  1. I actually discussed the correlation with my rheumatologist. He stated there was none. I told him I’ve received allergy shots off and on most of my life. It makes sense to me that there would be related science k

  2. I totally agree. I like Kim have had ongoing allergic reactions all my life. For doctors or other professionals to think otherwise is a grave mistake in helping those of us with lupus .

  3. My allergist (back in the 1990s) believed my fibromyalgia and lupus were directly connected to my allergies. He would give me a steroid injection (cortisone) in the hip and that would correct the various issues I had been experiencing before the injection. I.e., the steroid arrested all symptoms, from crippling pain to sneezing, itching, etc. The injection would last three months. That was in the beginning. I had to quit taking prednisone in 2003, my autoimmune system could not handle most of the meds I was on for lupus. I would say as human guinea pig, that lupus, fibromyalgia and allergies are inter-related. My rheumatologist and family doctor would agree.

  4. Seems to be a connection between latex allergy and lupus as well (from a large latex allergy group)

  5. I don’t have Lupus but I have alopecia. I truly believe my seasonal and food allergies cause it. Doctors refuse to listen to patients and further our suffering.

  6. I also have had allergies since I was little. Started having kenalog injections at 12. My Rheumatologist said he didn’t think I had allergies! But diagnosed me with Pre-Lupus ! I have been to an immunologist and was diagnosed with allergies to all trees , grasses anything green and most animals and dust and pollen. I feel there is a definite connection between Lupus and allergies. I also get the butterfly rash. My family Dr believes I have Lupus and has treated my allergies for some 30 years with a steroid shot: Kenalog. There is a connection!

  7. I am sure that my allergies cause my lupus symptoms to flare. My doctor doesn’t seem to feel they are connected either

    1. Me too and my doctor denies the correlation. I have Lupus and am getting shots for severe allergies. I’d throw hormones into the mix too. It seems Lupus and allergies are worse during the literal phase of my cycle. Lots of infections as well. All the doctors keep sending me back and forth instead of trying to find a commonality or root cause. I feel like a ping pong ball and I’m going broke…and I don’t qualify for disability OR unemployment.

  8. I would agree. I had the whole testing done, down the whole back, and arms. All the cultures of everything you can take from a person. I lived in the lab, as a kid. Allergy shots were my life, constantly. Years and years, and then I started giving them to myself as a teenager. I was allergic to everything, grass, trees, mold, cats, dogs, everything. Now I’m 35, and have full blown SLE. I no longer see an allergist, cause I’ve honestly been so busy with all my other doctors, but now I guess I need to schedule an appointment to see the folks back at the ole lab.

  9. Oh my life I’ve gotten bad canker sores in my mouth which made it hard to understand when I would talk not to mention the pain. I didn’t elimination diet and talk to a allergist who said I was allergic to seeds nuts and cinnamon. He said he could tell I did the eliminationCorrectly because the only exception I had was peanuts I didn’t get canker sores in my mouth when I eat peanuts or peanut butter. But whenever I added some thing that contain seeds or nuts or cinnamon I would break up with a mouthful of canker sores that were large and painful. I also had had low back pain and neck pain often on since my teens and was always prescribed Motrin and Vicodin for that and told I had strained muscles. In my 40s I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia. I think everything’s related and I still think I’m missing some diagnosis. I also have had migraines often on since my teens. I am now 58. I think all of this is related to allergies.

    1. Also taking L-Lysine 1000mg for any mouth sore with lupus really helps me if it is only that simple. Take 1 pill for several days – you should see a big difference.
      But …..with Covid19 one Luoys friend thought she had an ongoing Lupus mouth sore and called the dr & did video chat. Still not better, she finally gat a dr to SEE HER IN PERSON. …..Ot is SQUAMOUS CELL CARCINOMA INSTEAD ….. now one surgery last month, 4 lymph nodes on Tongue removed – 1 had cancer, now more surgery- then radiation….
      So don’t wait if not clearing up in a FEW DAYS & using L- Lysine 1000mg –

  10. Have any of you experienced sudden, adult onset food allergies that then disappear? In June I became allergic to foods I’ve eaten all my life, then they disappeared the next month. Now they come and go every few months.

      1. Yes! When I eat things I’ve always eaten, my stomach swells like I’m four months pregnant and my tongue swells. It’s oddly mostly healthy foods, like raw fruits, veggies and nuts. It didn’t show in skin test, but did in blood sensitivities screening. Also, I have severe environmental allergies that may mimic the protein in foods I’m told. Oral allergy syndrome. Also latex allergy.

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