Pathology Laboratory

What is Immunoglobulin E (IgE)?

Last updated on January 21st, 2023 at 12:01 pm

Immunoglobulin E (IgE) is the name of a type of protein in our body that can cause allergies when it reacts with certain substances called allergens. Our body uses it to fight infections.

There are five main types of antibodies, however, they are not interchangeable. A molecule of immunoglobulin E (IgE) is an antibody that specifically targets certain allergens.

The Immunoglobulin E test is used for specific IgE testing for diagnosis of adverse food reactions and atopy.

Immunoglobulin E functions in our body

Immunoglobulin E (IgE) are antibodies produced by the immune system.

If you have an allergy, your immune system overreacts to an allergen by producing antibodies called Immunoglobulin E (IgE). These antibodies travel to cells that release chemicals, causing an allergic reaction. This reaction usually causes symptoms in the nose, lungs, throat, or on the skin.

Each type of IgE has specific “radar” for each type of allergen. That’s why some people are only allergic to cat dander (they only have the IgE antibodies specific to cat dander); while others have allergic reactions to multiple allergens because they have many more types of IgE antibodies.

Allergies are a common and chronic condition that involves the body’s immune system. Normally, your immune system works to fight off viruses, bacteria, and other infectious agents. When you have an allergy, your immune system treats a harmless substance, like dust or pollen, as a threat. To fight this perceived threat, your immune system makes antibodies called immunoglobulin E (IgE).

The relation between Immunoglobulin E and allergy

Substances that cause an allergic reaction are called allergens. Besides dust and pollen, other common allergens include animal dander, foods, including nuts and shellfish, and certain medicines, such as penicillin. Allergy symptoms can range from sneezing and a stuffy nose to a life-threatening complication called anaphylactic shock. Allergy blood tests measure the amount of IgE antibodies in the blood. A small amount of IgE antibodies is normal. A larger amount of IgE may mean you have an allergy.

Other common names of IgE: IgE allergy test, Quantitative IgE, Immunoglobulin E, Total IgE, Specific IgE

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Innunoglobulin e test for allergies

Why doctor advice immunoglobulin e test for allergies?

Allergy blood tests are used to find out if you have an allergy. One type of test called a total IgE test measures the overall number of IgE antibodies in your blood. Another type of allergy blood test called a specific IgE test measures the level of IgE antibodies in response to individual allergens.

Several allergens handle allergic reactions. The most common include:

  • Pollen
  • Dust
  • Food
  • Insect Stings
  • Animal Dander
  • Mould
  • Medications/Drugs
  • Latex

Why do I need an immunoglobulin e test?

Your doctor may advise for an immunoglobulin test if you get a lot of infections, especially infections of the sinuses, lungs, stomach, or intestines.

The doctor may also advise IgE test if you have any of the following 7 symptoms;
  1. Diarrhoea that doesn’t go away
  2. Unexplained weight loss
  3. Fevers that can’t be explained by another cause
  4. Skin rashes
  5. Allergies
  6. Sickness after travelling
  7. HIV/AIDS or multiple myeloma (a type of cancer), or another condition that needs to be monitored
What other tests needed besides an IgE test?

Depending on your immunoglobulin test results, the doctor might need you to do other tests, such as a:

What does a high IgE level mean?

If your blood immunoglobulin level is high, it might be caused by:

What does a low IgE level mean?

Low levels of blood immunoglobulins mean your immune system isn’t working as well as it should. This can be caused by:

  • Medicines that weaken your immune system, such as steroids
  • Diabetes complications
  • Kidney disease or kidney failure
  • A weakened immune system that you were born with or developed (as with HIV/AIDS)
Why immunoglobulin test results vary?

High or low immunoglobulin level in your blood does not mean you have any medical condition.

Each person’s test can differ based on the method the lab uses to check the results. Talk to your doctor about your test results, and find out what you should do next.

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