Private Immunological Analysis

Immunological blood tests look at proteins and cells involved in the immune system to identify a range of problems. Anything from allergies to autoimmune diseases can be identified and appropriately dealt with. Quite commonly, proteins called antibodies are examined to get the results. Antibodies are the guardians of the body and they are produced by white blood cells to respond to any threatening substances that may be in the blood. Sometimes however, these proteins do not act appropriately and may act either again something that is not actually harmful to the body, as in an allergy, or against the body itself, referred to as autoimmunity.

Blood testing for allergies

Having an allergy but not knowing what it is may not only be a frustrating experience, but potentially life threatening as well depending on the severity of the allergy. A sample of blood is taken and sent for specialist analysis in a laboratory. The sample will be subjected to a radioallergosorbent test (RAST) which looks for a specific type of antibody called an immunoglobulin E, or IgE, that is produced in response to allergens. IgE then goes on to act on mast cells which produce histamine, the main reason that you get swelling and inflammation from a bee sting for example. In allergy, histamine is released in excess so a far greater reaction occurs as histamine has an inflammatory, pain and oedema response. A blood test is much safer for testing whether you have allergies compared to a skin prick or patch test, which may cause further allergic reactions to occur.  

The results of the test are quantified and expressed as a grade. Grade 6 is the highest and this indicated that you have a large number of IgE antibodies in the blood and the lowest is grade 0 which is considered to be a negative result. The higher the grade, the more probable an allergy is. There are many different tests that can be performed, enabling over 400 of the most common allergies to be identified. For example, a nut allergy test can be performed to see if you have an allergy to foods such as almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts and although not usually something that first would spring to mind, coconuts can also be tested for. However, it is not possible to identify every possible allergy in this way so other tests may be required if you still suspect an allergy is behind your discomfort. Certain allergies, such as an allergy to aspirin, horse hair, and bee stings cannot be tested for using this technique as these allergies are not IgE related so the test would come back negative, despite the person suffering an allergy.

Testing for autoimmune disorders

Autoimmunity screening may be used if certain conditions where antibodies attack the body’s own tissues and organs are potentially present. Symptoms from such diseases can be only minor, or in some instances they can be life threatening and require immediate attention. Autoimmune diseases are more common than you may think. Type I diabetes is caused by auto-antibodies, where the body produces antibodies against an area of the pancreas called Islets of Langerhans which produce insulin. These get destroyed and as a result, the pancreas loses the ability to produce insulin, meaning the sufferer has to have insulin injections for the rest of their life.

However, there are other conditions that may not be become apparent until later in life.  Certain conditions, for example a disorder of the thyroid called Addison’s disease often is caused by autoimmunity and occurs later in life, hence this type of blood test would be ideal for identifying such a disorder. Blood tests are often used in this respect to diagnose certain cancers and autoimmune conditions where elevated levels of antibodies are present.

Cancers of the blood especially can be picked up via looking at antibody levels in the blood. Myeloma is a form of blood cancer where stem cells of the bone marrow overproduce white blood cells called lymphocytes. In turn, these extra lymphocytes produce too many antibodies, or antibodies that are abnormal in their structure. In reverse, it may be the case that you have a low level of antibodies because the immune system is not functioning correct, as in the case of leukaemia. If you keep suffering from recurrent or persistent infections, then it would certainly be worth you having a blood test to analyse your immune system’s functioning.

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