I've spent the last day or so researching a possible link between allergies and MS. After I posted a question yesterday regarding my husbands allergies and his MS, it seems that the general consensus among the MS community is that there is no major link.
However, I started wondering how the anti-myelin antibodies crossed the blood brain barrier in the first place. Antibodies just shouldn't be crossing the blood brain barrier. The body does not recognize nerve tissue as "self" so if there is severe inflammation that results in a systemic elevation of inflammatory cytokines, a common reaction is that the immune system will attack normally unaccessible nerve tissues like the eyes and spinal cord etc that is completely unrelated to the original site of injury.
Turns out that this may be a function of a Th2 (type 2 helper T lymphocytes) mediated "loosening" of the endothelial cells that comprise the blood brain barrier.
(see: Activated non-neural specific T cells open the blood brain barrier to circulating antibodies. Westland et. al. Brain 1999, vol122, 1283-91.)
Th2 cells also stimulate B lymphocytes to produce massive amounts of antibodies when stimulated by antigen presenting cells - dendritic cells or macrophages.
IgE is the class of antibody that is involved with allergic responses, and anti-myelin IgE has been found MS plaques. There are also a few recent research articles that have demonstrated the presence of mast cells and type 1 histamine receptors, which respond to IgE, in the brain plaques from MS patients.
see link: http://www.jneuroinflammation.com/content/6/1/29
In the immunology text book (Immunobiology, Janeway et. al) it is speculated that allergies are a by product of the lack of parasites in the western world. I don't have a reference by I'm sure I've read speculations that autoimmune diseases are also caused by our lack of exposure to parasites.
My husbands neurologist believes that MS will turn out to be a syndrome with multiple origins and not a single disease with one etiology. So given that no one really knows what initiates the autoimmune cascade in MS, it seems to me that a severe allergic reaction is as likely as anything else.
Since Allegra is a type I histamine receptor blocker, I wonder if that would help prevent new flares if the origin of the disease is allergic in nature.
Have any of you experienced an episode of severe allergies in your life prior to the onset of MS symptoms?
I have often wondered about this very subject. Prior to my MS like symptoms (not dx yet but possible MS) I had an anaphalactic reaction to an antibiotic.
Since this happened I have had neurological problems as well as an allergy to chemical and perfumes. I am convinced I have MS and as all mimics have been tested for and negative, MS is the likely cause.
This allergic reaction was 4 years ago. The neurological problems started soon after and prior to that I had been well with no health issues. I am thinking maybe my body was suseptable to this anyway and the allergic reaction could have been the cataylist.
You could think of MS as the ultimate allergy. The T and B cells attacking the CNS. So far every researcher and doctor I have heard speak says it is complex triggers genetic and viral, and environmental.
When I was new to MS I read everything. Now I realize I have MS there is no going back so I do my best to take care of my health today.
Also everything I have wrong with my body is not related to MS at least that is what Neurologists tell me.
Your story is similar to my husbands. He was working in an animal care facility where he was experiencing extraordinary allergic reactions primarily to rats but also monkeys around the time of his first flare. My husbands allergies are just one step below anaphylaxis - hives all over his body, bright red eyes, bronchial constriction. He was instructed to leave the facility immediately if he gets one of these reactions because they frequently can evolve to anaphylaxis.
This is interesting because I had a severe case of what appeared to be hives all over my body as well a very long time ago which lasted about a month. I was sick ever since that point in time. I thought of it as an autoimmune attack of the time. No one had ever figured out what the problem was. My GP thought it was lupus and there were a few blood tests that pointed in that direction, but none were very significant.
Thanks so much for your feedback - I know I tend to ramble on....
I am a biomedical research scientist (Ph.D.), specializing in biochemistry by training. However, I've been working in the areas of pathology and infectious disease for the last 15 years or so, so I've picked up quite a bit of immunology. I also have an autoimmune disease myself, Graves disease since I was 11 years old, so I've had some personal interest as well. Neurology has always been kind of a mystery though so this is new to me too.
Anyway, I do have a point. The more I read, the more I wonder about the link between allergies and autoimmune diseases.
My understanding is that basically you're born with a repertoire of antibody producing cells, each recognizing a single potential antigen. These antigens aren't predetermined, just sort of random, but there are so many of them that when presented with a foreign substance, chances are that one or more of these antibodies will "match" the antigen.
When that happens there is a clonal expansion of that particular cell type. Then memory T cells are produced and you develop long-term immunity against that particular substance.
However, it seems that if you are NOT exposed to enough truly foreign antigens during your early lifetime, or maybe just parasitic antigens, unrelated events that stress the bodies immune system causes cytokines to be released into the blood stream. These cytokines stimulate the as yet "un-matched" B cells to "stick" to proteins that they shouldn't be sticking to. Theseproteins can be innocuous environmental agents or normal proteins in the body. If it's the latter, then the result is allergies, and if it's the former, then the result is autoimmunity.
Anyway, that's my impression - theory I guess.
It's absolutely mind boggling how far our level of understanding of the immune system has advanced since I started in research 26 years ago. I truly believe that it will be not too long a time before there are "cures" for these abnormal immunologic reactions. Unfortunately, if the damage is done, there will be no going back, like for type 1 diabetes, or in my case, I have no functional thyroid left after 37 years of antibody bombardment.
However, if we can just find a way to prevent the damage in MS from getting worse - in a few years there really could be a cure. They are really so close to it.
This is my hope for my husband who is not responding to the Rebif - that's what started me on all this.
I wonder if his allergies aren't aggravating the disease and just overwhelming the Rebif. I wonder if he would benefit from Allegra or Zyrtec. I wonder if a subclass of MS pts like yourself might also benefit from such a simple addition to treatment.
I'll let you know when I find out what the neuroimmunologist thinks.
I just sent you a private message (I didn't see your post here). Happy New Year to you too!
I will copy and paste what I sent you, here, in case anything strikes a chord with someone else.
Happy New Year to you!
This is very interesting. I have always felt that the day that I developed the skin rash was the turning point. I remember my sister, who also has MS, developing a very bad skin rash as well. She had a very bad case of allergies as a child and asthma, however.
I have read something in my research into what was causing my problems in a book published to help those with lupus. I book I read was called The Lupus Book: A Guide to Patients and Their Familes by Dr. Wallace (a rheumatologist). See the link below for part of the book online:
In the book, I remember Dr. Wallace saying something about people with lupus tend to have more allergies than other people. There are some other interesting points he made as well:
1) Sometimes people with autoimmune disease have a picture of several types of autoimmune diseases and later on it developes into one or the other (I don't have the book to reference to anymore).
2) People in the general population have a positive ANA. People with MS may have a low-titer positive ANA at some point.
3) People with autoimmune disease have more of a chance in having other autoimmune diseases.
I wish I had this book to refer to again, but my daughter, who was a biology major has it. I highlighted a bunch of things in there that I thought was interesting besides what I pointed out. I also have Raynaud's phenomenom and hypothyroidism in which I take Synthroid for. Right now, it looks like I have another autoimmune problem of some type because of a little bit of a skin rash (the tops of my forearms are scale over and bleed) and my hair is thinning.
I thought at first I had lupus, but my ANA tests were always a low titer (or even negative). It wasn't until my sister's diagnosis that I had even considered MS. She and I had the exact same symptoms. She was having numbness on her left side and I was having the same symptoms on the right side. Another interesting thing about this is that we would develop other strange symptoms in about the same time table.
Now, however, she is in a negative spiral downwards and a freight train couldn't stop it. She's on Tysabri and is developing black holes in her brain. She started with Rebif and it didn't stop the progression of lesions. T/he Tysabri does appear to help with development of new lesions, but where the old lesions were, black holes are beginning to replace. I'm on Copaxone and appear to be doing much better than she is. At one point, I was unable to walk without assistance, but after being on Copaxone for about a year, I can walk without problems. I can't say if it's the medicine or not. I think it's more likely the luck of the cards drawn. Her job is also about a hundred times more stressful than mine. Plus, the injury she sustain when she fell, created permament damage. She is in a great deal of pain and is retiring on disability this month.
There is a marked difference between she and I now in our disability. She looks as though she's had a stroke. The left side of her face droops and she uses knee roller to get around because she cannot put any weight at all on her left foot (very painful and will turn black). We still will compare symptoms and have some strange ones at the same time. For instance, I told her last year that I just developed some weird things with my vision. I was seeing like a bug with several images of the same thing (more than doubled). She said, "How weird, I getting that, too!". I went to the opthalmologist and I was diagnosed with ON. She went, and was diagnosed with migraines (go figure).
Anyway, I'm rambling. I find what your saying extremely interesting. I am hoping that you discover something that will hit the ball out of the park. Keep me posted on what you come up with or other findings. I bet you are a God send to your husband. I know I couldn't live without mine. He's been there for me from the start of this and helps to keep me happy and sane! LOL
The Content on this Site is presented in a summary fashion, and is intended to be used for educational and entertainment purposes only. It is not intended to be and should not be interpreted as medical advice or a diagnosis of any health or fitness problem, condition or disease; or a recommendation for a specific test, doctor, care provider, procedure, treatment plan, product, or course of action. Med Help International, Inc. is not a medical or healthcare provider and your use of this Site does not create a doctor / patient relationship. We disclaim all responsibility for the professional qualifications and licensing of, and services provided by, any physician or other health providers posting on or otherwise referred to on this Site and/or any Third Party Site. Never disregard the medical advice of your physician or health professional, or delay in seeking such advice, because of something you read on this Site. We offer this Site AS IS and without any warranties. By using this Site you agree to the following Terms and Conditions. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your physician or 911 immediately.