First of its kind in South India, Hyderabad woman diagnosed with rare semen allergy

Semen allergy occurs when a person has a immune system reaction to proteins in semen. It isn't a direct cause of infertility.

BySumit Jha

Published Oct 05, 2022 | 8:00 AMUpdatedOct 05, 2022 | 8:00 AM

Semen Allergy

Every time she had sexual intercourse with her partner, a 30-year-old Hyderabad woman developed rashes and itching in her private parts. She would also see a breakout of acne on her face, and alternately experience extreme heat and cold.

When she approached a private allergy clinic, she was diagnosed with seminal plasma hypersensitivity — also known as sperm allergy, or semen allergy. The disease is a rare disorder mostly affecting females.

Allergist and Immunologist Dr Vyakarnam Nageshwar at the Aswini Allergy Centre in Hyderabad’s Chikkadpally area, who treated the woman, told South First that this is South India’s first and India’s sixth case of human semen allergy.

Why do you get allergic to semen?

Dr Nageshwar explained that semen allergy occurs when a person has a harmful immune system reaction to proteins in semen.

This condition is quite rare. However, it is not a direct cause of infertility.

Symptoms of semen allergy include a change in skin color, burning, and swelling where semen contacts the skin or vaginal tissues. Some people may have a whole-body response, including hives, itching, and difficulty in breathing.

“Semen contains proteinoids (made up of protein particles). When the protein comes in contact with the vaginal area, the body starts a hyper-reaction in the hyper-sensitive area. It is basically an antibody, antigen reaction. It can happen in males too, but mostly occurs in females,” according to Dr Nageshwar.

While the condition is mostly harmless beyond the manifestation of the allergy, in some cases it could lead to allergic angioedema or a life-threatening allergic anaphylactic shock.

Woman was allergic to semen from last six years

The Hyderabad-based couple — the male (32) and his wife — both IT employees, have been married for six years and were looking to have children. They tried all natural methods of conception but failed.

To their surprise, in the last one-and-half years, the woman began to experience high allergic reactions 30 minutes to six hours after intercourse. Dr Nageshwar said the woman developed rashes and itching wherever she came into contact with semen.

“After a detailed clinical evaluation and personal disease history, it was suspected that male partner’s semen was the trigger for allergies. The male partner had allergies since childhood. He had allergic asthma, allergic urticaria (rashes and itching), and allergic rhinitis (cold and sneezes) very often,” said Dr Nageshwar, who described the diagnosis as “a breakthrough”.

How was Semen allergy diagnosed?

Semen was collected from the husband in a sterile container. Later the arm of the wife was sterilised and used for a  painless, modified allergen skin-prick testing. A small prick was made on the arm and 0.5ml of semen was dropped on it.

“These are absolute values for confirmation of semen allergy or semen hypersensitivity or sex allergy,” said Dr Nageshwar. “If the person has seminal allergy, it will show at any place in body.”

Semen allergy is not STI

Dr Nageshwar said there is a possibility that semen allergy is mistaken for a sexually transmitted Infection (STI) as similar reactions and rashes are seen in such cases too.

“An allergy usually occurs with reddening, itching, rashes, swelling of the private parts of the partners. But STIs start with itching, which proceeds to vaginal secretion — secretion of white vaginal discharge and pungent smell, which is not there in this case,” said Dr Nageshwar.

Treatment for Semen allergy

  • Antihistamine tablet before the intercourse,
  • Use of condom
  • EPIPEN Injection to be kept handy at home to prevent any life-threatening escalation of allergic reactions
  • Use of Intravaginal Desensitisation methods for semen.

Important to identify allergies

Dr Nageshwar said that people should not neglect any kinds of allergy, whether it is asthma, allergic rhinitis, cold or sneezing, and rashes.

“At an early stage, try to identify the allergy and then go to an allergist or immunologist for treatment so that the allergy doesn’t progress,” said Dr Nageshwar.

He also advised an allergy screening test.

“Advanced modified allergen prick-test is a painless test that identifies major allergens in the individual. With this test it is easy to find out which allergens or materials cause the allergy, and the person can avoid them. Doctors may also suggest putting patients on allergen-specific, sub-lingual immuno therapy,” said Dr Nageshwar.

Can patients with semen allergy conceive a child?

Dr Nageshwar said that treatment to make the patient less sensitive to their partner’s semen may allow them to get pregnant naturally.

“Another option is intrauterine insemination (IUI), which uses sperm washed free of semen proteins to prevent a reaction. For those with a severe sensitivity to semen, assisted reproductive technology, such as in vitro fertilisation (IVF) or intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), may be options,” he said.