Desensitization Therapy

A therapeutic method in which gradual exposure to an allergen builds up the body’s tolerance for the allergen, diminishing the immune response to encountering it. immunoglobulin E (IgE) is primarily responsible for the symptoms associated with type I hypersensitivity reaction (allergic reaction), initiating the release of histamines, leukotrienes, and prostaglandins.

These substances induce inflammation (swelling), itching, sneezing, coughing, and other physiologic responses that represent the body’s attempt to rid itself of the offending substance. Desensitization gradually activates an immunoglobulin G (IgG) antibody that binds, instead of IgE, with the allergen. Because IgG does not activate mast cells, the binding produces none of the symptoms that characterize a type I hypersensitivity reaction.

Desensitization therapy for Allergies

In desensitization the allergist injects the person with very small amounts of the allergen (“allergy shots”) regularly over a period of three to five years. Relief is generally apparent in about a year. Approximately 80 percent of people who have seasonal allergies respond to desensitization, bringing their hypersensitivity reactions within tolerable parameters or eliminating them entirely. Desensitization, sometimes called allergy immunotherapy, is also highly effective for allergies to pet dander (especially cats), molds, and insect stings – also may be a therapeutic option for severe food allergies that are difficult to manage by avoiding the food.

Desensitization injections carry the risk for instigating a severe hypersensitivity reaction including anaphylaxis, though this is rare. Some people experience temporary discomfort with the shots. Most people who undergo desensitization treatment have few side effects, however, and find the long-term benefit of reduced hypersensitivity reaction greatly improves their quality of life.


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