Formal Name:  Immunoglobulin E

What is Total IgE tested?

Immunoglobulin E (IgE) is a type of antibody present in the body. This antibody is produced by the immune system of our body in response to perceived threats. It’s one of the major antibodies (IgA, IgG, IgM, IgD & IgE). Normally, this antibody is present in the blood in a really small amount. This test is for measuring the current state of the IgE population in the blood. Antibodies are proteins that attack the antigens (bacteria, virus and other unwanted substances) and works as a sentry of immunity.

When to use the test?

Your health care provider may order allergy testing if you have symptoms of an allergy. IgE is infamous for those allergic reactions to various things. Your doctor may suggest performing the IgE counting test if you have symptoms of allergy. The symptoms include –

  • Runny/stuffy nose
  • Frequently sneezing
  • Watery & itchy eyes
  • Patches of rashes with red hue (hives)
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Breath shortness
  • Wheezing

The test procedure

This test doesn’t require any specific preparation. The technician/doctor will collect the blood sample by injecting a needle in the arm’s vein.

Why are IgE (Total) test done?

There are lots of things that can trigger the allergic reaction of a person. Allergic IgE is vastly responsible for the allergic reactions. The antigens include animal dander, pollen, medicine, mold, food, latex, dust mites or insect venom.

What the test result means

Depending on the condition of the person, the number of IgE can vary. If the count of IgE is higher, it indicates that the person is allergic to one or more allergens. After an exposure to such objects, the level of allergen-specific IgE will increase a lot. This level will decline over time if not exposed to that substance. A person having the allergy to seasonal allergens like pollen, both amount of IgE and total IgE will increase during that time. If someone is constantly staying around any allergic object(s) like cat dander or mold in the house, the total IgE level will increase persistently. The total level will indicate whether a person was exposed to an allergic substance, but not the allergic object. In general, the more things a person is allergic to, the higher level of the total IgE.

Anything else I should know?

For identifying a specific allergen, the healthcare practitioner has to order tests to allergen-specific IgE. For example, if the healthcare practitioner suspects the patient having the allergy to cat dander, then he/she has to order a cat dander specific IgE test. If the person is allergic to other things like dog or food, this test will show no problem.

There are some rare cases where total IgE level test is useful in diagnosing the Job syndrome (hyperimmunoglobulin E syndrome). This disease causes a higher level of IgE all the time than normal. There’s also high chance that they may suffer eczema, lung infections, severe skin infections etc. A great increase in the IgE level indicates that the patient may have inherited it. Moreover, this test is also useful in diagnosing & monitoring multiple myeloma.

Is there any way to reduce the IgE level?

If you know that you’re allergic to something, avoid those at all costs. The total IgE won’t change even if you change of lifestyle and attempts to lower the count won’t resolve your allergy.