Insulin Allergies

Insulin Allergies do exist, but are rare. They were much more common when the insulin we used came from the bodies of pigs and cows. I have two online friends who have insulin allergies. A few years ago one of them posted her problem on a diabetes website and some members there did not believe her. She left the group and has never posted her problem again. We should never reject another person's message, just because we are unfamiliar with it. I want to spread the word that these allergies do exist, and there are ways of dealing with the problem. See the article below presented by the Joslin Diabetes Center.

Wow, that would be horrible. I agree that just because we may be unaware of something doesn't mean that it doesn't happen.

thanks Richard. we have a group here for it

Allergies are an immune response that has gone haywire. One of the antibodies present in the diagnosis of T1/LADA is the anti insulin auto antibodies (IA2), which is an immune response against your own insulin. But we don't call it an allergy. The antibodies attack the insulin, deactivating it and essentially make your insulin resistant. Once you start insulin, whether it be "human" insulin or insulin analogs, you may still have an immune response to the insulin which will generate anti insulin antibodies. I believe the same lab test (IA2) detect both kinds of antibodies.

Unfortunately, the terms allergy and immune response essentially mean the same thing. An allergy is just an immune response that is out of whack. As Richard notes, in the days of bovine and porcine insulin these problems were more significant, they still occur these days. As with most allergies, you can attempt to desensitize against the reaction, but it may not always work.

I believe it is also common to have allergic reactions to the other ingredients in insulin, which often can cause the sorts of contact allergy reactions that are seen at injection and insertion sites. I believe the same sorts of approach can be taken for those allergies.

I had a friend of a friend once with insulin allergy. Taking it made her so sick that she gave up. It was horrible to watch. She died.

I disagree. An allergy is an immune response, but it's a different kind of immune response. An allergy releases histamine and many other chemicals--immune responses release different kinds of chemicals.

The cell types that mediate autoimmune reactions and allergies are different. (As I sit in Immunology and type this.) An allergy can kill you, an autoimmune reaction itself can't. (People can die of organ damage or lack of a hormone--say, insulin--but allergies are much, much more severe.)

Many people who are allergic to insulin are really allergic to the preservatives, but there are those who are allergic to the insulin analogues themselves.

An allergy is caused by IgE antibodies, which are a distinct type of antibody from IA2 or other antibodies that might affect insulin resistance. IgE antibodies are created against substances that are actually harmless, whether it be pollen, food, medication, or something else. These antibodies cause all types of reactions from sniffles to hives to anaphylaxis. As far as I know, the severity of a reaction roughly corresponds to the number of IgE antibodies against a substance that a person has in their bloodstream. Someone may have an immune response of some sort to their own or to injected insulin, but they are only allergic to insulin if their body has created IgE antibodies against insulin.

Thanks for the clarification. My understanding is that with insulin allergy, IgG antibodies generate a response that attaches to the insulin and deactivates and IgE causes the systemic reactions such as hives. From what I have read, both forms are called "insulin allergies" and you can have an IgG allergy which just appears like terrible insulin resistance.

The article you linked to does mention that an insulin allergy can manifest in different ways (immediate or delayed, local or systemic):

Allergic reactions to insulin include immediate type IgE-mediated reactions, type 3 immune complex type
(Arthus reaction-localized or serum sickness-generalized)
or delayed type hypersensitivity reactions. Furthermore,
reactions with a delayed onset, i.e. 6 h after injection of
insulin may develop (3).

But the article mentions that the IgG antibodies involved in insulin resistance is not considered an allergy:

It is important to distinguish insulin allergy that manifests with allergic symptoms from immune-complex mediated insulin resistance due to IgG antibodies that bind to insulin to produce a nonfunctional complex (7).

I think generally, when doctors talk about an allergy, they are talking about an immediate allergic reaction of some sort. Of course, there are many misconceptions, and some people refer to food intolerances and any adverse reactions to medications as allergies, even though they are not.

It happened to me, I was diagnosed right around the end of the use of beef and pork insulins, and they switched me from one to the other, and I remember breaking out in hives all over. It was either pork or beef, and after that they put me on human, and I've never had any type of reaction since then. I'm leaning towards it was the pork insulin that was the guilty culprit.