Rare Condition Can Hinder Sex Life

Human seminal plasma hypersensitivity is a rare disorder that is often misdiagnosed, as the condition can mimic chronic vaginitis, yeast infections, or urinary tract infections (UTI) in women.

With the discomfort of burning and swelling, the appearance or sensation of a rash or hives, some women are concerned the immediate onset of the inflammation and irritation after intercourse may be the result of contracting a sexually transmitted disease (STD) or infection (STI). They don’t consider the possibility that they are allergic to their partners’ seminal fluid (sperm), more specifically the proteins commingled with the sperm.

This allergic reaction does not happen with every partner. Hence, most typical patients afflicted with the hypersensitivity are those who are engaging in intercourse with a relatively new companion. Symptoms include inflammation of and around the vagina, itching, burning, and raw painful blistering of the surrounding flesh and can appear within 20 minutes or days after interacting with seminal plasma.

Medical research points to several important facts about this type of unusual allergic reaction. First, the allergic antibodies are formed against specific protein substances co-contained in the liquid portion of the male ejaculate. The sperm itself do not cause the adverse reaction.

Second, most women who develop this condition also are particularly susceptible to developing allergic antibodies to other natural substances. Third, these adverse antibodies develop after varying periods of exposure to seminal plasma – some having an immediate reaction, others days or weeks later. Therefore, making an accurate diagnosis based on the symptoms can be challenging.

It can be frustrating and embarrassing and potentially kill a libido as many couples find the only way to limit the negative side effects is to abstain from sex or use barrier methods, consisting of condoms, to avoid direct contact with the irritant. But once a proper diagnosis is made, treating the allergy is relatively painless.

The offending proteins can be isolated using a skin allergy test, and, over time, a woman can undergo allergen desensitization – a repeated therapy of diluted fluid samples which are introduced in 15-20 minute courses at a time. Gradually, the sensitivity wanes.

In the US, nearly 40,000 women are afflicted with the unique allergy. According to Dr. Jonathan Bernstein, a professor at the University of Cincinnati, who specializes in allergies and immunology, the condition does not directly affect fertility, just the mechanism of conception as sex can be uncomfortable as a result of the sensitivity.

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