Alternative names: Human Seminal Plasma Hypersensitivity (HSPH).
As with any substance, it is possible to be allergic to seminal fluid and it is estimated that 5% of women have semen allergy.
Since returning from the Persian Gulf War of 1991, veterans and/or their wives have reported burning after contact with semen. This has been called Burning Semen Syndrome (BSS). This syndrome is currently under investigation to establish whether it is toxic, immunologic or infectious in nature. These reactions are similar to those experienced by women with established allergic reactions to their husband's semen.
Semen allergy was first reported by gynecologists in 1958, but the prevalence of the condition was basically unknown until a University of Cincinnati College of Medicine study in 1996. Dr. Jonathan A. Bernstein, the lead author of the study, said the disorder was much more common than previously recognized after a survey of 1,073 women who were suspected of having "semen allergy" symptoms.
The symptoms of semen allergy can either be localized or systemic reactions. The localized reactions can include vaginal burning, pain, swelling, redness, or blisters forming within 30 minutes of exposure to semen. The systemic reactions can include generalized itching, hives, angioedema, wheezing, and in very rare cases anaphylaxis. Semen allergies may also make it difficult to conceive.
There are a number of diagnostic procedures available to help determine this allergy. As always, you should report any symptoms to your physician so that they can rule out infections or other problems.
There was found to be a greater prevalence of self-reported food allergy among women with systemic human seminal plasma hypersensitivity. This supports the hypothesis that exposure and sensitization to semimal fluid could result from cross-reactivity with food proteins that are a part of the average daily American diet. In other words, semen allergies could be connected to food allergies because of similar protein composition.
Condoms can be used to prevent both localized and systemic reactions to semen. Because of this protective effect, they can also be used to determine if a semen allergy is present. There is a strong possibility that a semen allergy exists if there are symptoms when a condom is not used, but none when one is used.
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