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What is the reason for an elevated IgE?

Q: I am 61 years old. I recently had my total IgE test done due to allergic reactions. The test reveals a level of 417.5 as against the referred range of 1.50 to 378.0. What should I do to restrict the level?

A:Immunoglobulins are proteins produced by plasma cells (terminal B-lymphocytes) which play an essential role in the bodys immune system and aid in fighting infection. They attach to foreign substances (bacteria, allergens, tumour cells) and assist in destroying them. They belong to five classes, namely IgG, IgM, IgA, IgE & IgD. The main function of IgE is to protect the host against invading parasites. The antigen-specific IgE interacts with some cells and eosinophils to protect the host against the invading parasite. However, the same antibody-cell combination is also responsible for typical allergy or immediate hypersensitivity reactions such as hay fever, asthma, hives and anaphylaxis. This class of immunoglobulins is distributed throughout the body, although cells synthesizing IgE are found predominantly in association with mucosal tissues (skin, gut, and respiratory tract). Beneficial function of IgE antibodies is that they play a key role in very early recognition of foreign material (gate keeper function) or a general potentiation of the immune system response by improved antigen presentation. Actually, allergy triggered by IgE may be considered a beneficial function to the host; the typical allergic reactions of mucus secretion, sneezing, itching, coughing, bronchoconstriction, tear production, inflammation, vomiting and diarrhoea are all mechanisms that expel allergenic proteins from the body. Avoidance of allergen exposure has only partially been successful in prevention of IgE-sensitisation. Avoidance is difficult to implement and can severely restrict lifestyle, benefits are small, and long-term effects are doubtful. Prevention of IgE sensitisation is possible in the occupational environment by the elimination of sensitising agents from the workplace or implementing measures to prevent exposure. The most common allergens are dust mites, pets, cockroaches, molds, and pollens which cause release of chemicals. The treatment includes a) avoiding the allergen, b) drugs, and c) immunotherapy.

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