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Couples who would like to become parents can face all kinds of medical problems. A semen allergy is among the less well-known and more bizarre causes of fertility struggles. In this article, we'll examine what a sperm allergy is, how it can lead to infertility, and what the treatment options are.
What Is A Sperm Allergy?
What is colloquially known as a “sperm allergy” or a “semen allergy” is, in fact, an allergic reaction to a protein within a man's seminal plasma. It is officially known as Human Seminal Plasma Hypersensitivity. Women can manifest an allergic reaction after contact with their partner's semen, but a man can also be allergic to his own semen in rare cases.
The allergic reaction does not typically occur the first time the skin comes into contact with the allergen. Rather, the allergy builds up over time.
Women who have a semen allergy are likely to be allergic to all semen, not just their particular partner's semen. Once sensitized, the body will jump into action immediately upon allergen exposure and symptoms will show up right away or within the hour. The antibodies quickly detect the allergen in the semen, and bind to it. At the same time, chemicals like histamines are released to deal with the allergen.
The result? Swelling of the genital area, a burning sensation, pain and redness can be the uncomfortable resulting symptoms. Histamine leads to typical allergy symptoms like urticaria (hives), swelling, and an itchy skin. Anyone who has ever had hives knows how uncomfortable they can be, but imagine what it would be like if your genital area was affected.
What's even more disturbing is that some women who are hypersensitive to semen have reactions so severe that they can go into anaphylactic shock!
How many women suffer from a hypersensitivity to human sperm? Dr Michael Carroll, a lecturer in Reproductive Science at Manchester Metropolitan University in the United Kindgom has researched the topic. He estimates that up to 12 percent of women are affected, and that women aged between 20 and 30 show the worst symptoms.
One of Dr Carroll's papers, published in the journal Human Fertility, suggests that sperm allergy is often misdiagnosed — the symptoms are, after all, similar to other conditions including dermatitis and some sexually transmitted diseases.