Allergy - simply explained

Our Medical Team, in cooperation with Prof. Dr. Karl-Christian Bergmann, Chairman of the German Pollen Service Foundation, describes how allergies are medically diagnosed and why a diagnosis is so important.

Frau mit allergischem Schnupfen Quelle: Antonio Guillem/Shutterstock.com - Copyright: Scientific DX GmbH, 2018

What is an allergy?

The immune system has the task of protecting the human organism from harmful substances. In the case of allergies, the immune system malfunctions and reacts hypersensitively to substances that are actually harmless. If the immune system comes into contact with allergenic substances, it forms antibodies (immunoglobulins) to defend itself. Depending on how pronounced the allergy is, even the smallest amounts of certain substances can be sufficient to cause symptoms that make everyday life difficult for those affected.

Determination of allergies

When you do research about allergy tests, you come across two important shortcuts: IgE and IgG. In this article we would like to explain what is behind these two abbreviations and why it is important to look out for IgE.

What are immunoglobulins?

Immunoglobulins, better known as antibodies, are the protectors of our health. These protein molecules recognise antigens, i.e. foreign invaders or pathogens such as toxins, bacteria or viruses, and render them harmless.

Antibodies for allergies

Basically, a distinction is made between five different classes of antibodies: Immunoglobulin A (IgA), Immunoglobulin D (IgD), Immunoglobulin G (IgG), Immunogloblin M (IgM) and Immunoglobulin E (IgE). Each one is "trained" for certain pathogens and each class of antibodies has a specific function in the immune system. In the context of allergies, class E immunoglobulin plays the decisive role.

Immunoglobulin E is, among other things, not only responsible for the defence against parasites but also for allergic reactions. For this reason, IgE values are determined with a blood test in the case of allergies or suspected allergies - if there is an excess of IgE antibodies, doctors assume that the patient is allergic.

Immunoglobulin E and Immunoglobulin G - the difference

Immunoglobulins E (IgE) are important antibodies for the detection of allergies. If they are elevated in the blood, they show an increased risk of allergic symptoms. This link between IgE and allergic symptoms has been scientifically proven several times.

With Immunoglobulin G (IgG) the picture is completely different. The relationship between the IgG level in the blood and the occurrence of Food intolerances and allergies are not scientifically substantiated. The reason for this is that the development of IgG antibodies, for example against food, is a natural process and does not provide any information about allergies. Scientific studies have repeatedly shown that even perfectly healthy people without symptoms can have elevated IgG levels. The detection of these antibodies does not therefore say anything about the risk of allergies. Only the IgE value is therefore relevant and medically established for determining the allergen status.

When selecting your allergy tests, please pay attention to the determination of the IgE value.

Interview with Prof. Dr. Karl-Christian Bergmann (in German)

Prof. Dr. Karl-Christian Bergmann is an allergist and chairman of the
Foundation German Pollen Information Service ↗.

The expert and chairman of the medical igevia advisory board met Dominik Flener (founder of igevia) for an interview.

  • What should allergy sufferers pay attention to?
  • When is testing useful?
  • What are the differences between the various testing procedures?

Untreated allergies

It is important to identify the trigger of the symptoms as early as possible in order to arrive at a sound diagnosis. A large proportion of those affected do not know their own allergen status, which is why the allergy(ies) remain untreated. The symptoms are often not taken seriously and the consequences are underestimated. A steady worsening of the symptoms or chronic diseases such as allergic asthma can be the long-term consequence.

Approved

This article has been reviewed by Prof. Dr. Karl-Christian Bergmann for accuracy of content.

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