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What are Allergy Tests? What Are Allergy Tests Used For?

What are Allergy Tests? What Are Allergy Tests Used For?
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What are Allergy Tests? What Are Allergy Tests Used For?

In order to maintain a healthy life, it is essential to understand the sensitivity of individuals to ecological and personal allergens. Allergy tests, especially applied to people with suspected allergies, play a critical role in shaping treatment methods by determining the body's reaction to allergens. These tests provide comprehensive information about the source and severity of the allergy.

  1. Prick Test (Skin Piercing Test): Prick test is one of the most frequently used allergy tests and is especially used to detect respiratory allergies, some food allergies and allergies due to bee stings. Small amounts of specific allergen substances are applied to the upper tissue of the skin with the help of a thin needle. The procedure is usually performed on the inner part of the arm or the back area. If the person is sensitive to the allergen, a reaction in the form of skin redness, itching or a raised rash occurs within 15-20 minutes.
  2. Patch Test: In the patch test, which is preferred to diagnose skin reactions known as contact dermatitis, allergens are applied to the skin through small patches and kept on the skin for a certain period of time. Generally, the reactions occurring on the skin as a result of the patches left on the skin for 48 hours are examined. Reactions to this test help to understand which substances trigger allergic effects on the skin.
  3. Blood test : In this test, antibodies that may cause allergies; That is, the levels of IgE antibodies in the blood are measured. Blood test is a preferred method, especially when skin tests cannot be applied. For example, blood tests are ideal for individuals who suffer from serious skin diseases or who use antihistamine medications to levels that interfere with allergy testing. Additionally, since it is less invasive, it is accepted more comfortably by some patients.

All three allergy tests, when evaluated together, effectively produce individual allergy profiles. With all these tests, the underlying mechanisms of allergic reactions and, accordingly, which substances are harmful can be clearly determined. Therefore, allergy tests provide important clues about the suitability of personalized treatment methods and lifestyle changes and are an essential tool in the management of allergy. Based on this information, allergists can determine the most appropriate treatment approach for the individual and improve quality of life by reducing exposure to potential allergens.

What is Prick Test?

Prick test is known as a safe and effective method used to detect allergic reactions. This test, which is preferred in the definitive diagnosis of disorders with suspected allergies, has a critical role in measuring the degree of skin sensitivity to allergens.

How to Perform Prick Test?

In performing the prick test, first the inner surface of the patient's forearm or back area is cleaned and made suitable for the test. Then, special test solutions containing allergens are dripped onto the skin at regular intervals. For each allergen, very small, superficial holes are made on the skin with the help of a special device or needle. The prick test, as the name suggests, “lightly pierces” the skin and allows the allergen to penetrate under the skin, so a deep injection is not performed.

Meanwhile, the patient may feel mild discomfort such as itching and burning in the area where the test liquids are applied. Thanks to the micro holes made, the test solutions penetrate under the skin and if there are allergen-sensitive cells on the skin, a local allergic reaction develops. The reaction usually manifests itself as redness and swelling.

Evaluation Phase

Evaluation of the prick test is usually carried out by the specialist doctor within 10 to 20 minutes, depending on the severity of the reaction. The diameter of the reaction is measured and, if there is a local allergy reaction, it is understood how strong a reaction the allergen causes. During the evaluation of test results, control solutions (histamine and saline) are also used for comparison against false positive or false negative results.

Advantages of Prick Test

Prick testing has many advantages. Results can be obtained before the patient reaches a noticeable level of discomfort, and many allergens can be tested in one session. The test is simple and fast to administer, which makes it particularly suitable for individuals with a fear of needles, such as children. Additionally, the Prick test functions as a helpful diagnostic tool in planning allergy treatment and determining allergen avoidance strategies.

What are the Skin Test Types?

Allergies are among the health problems that are very common in our age. A wide variety of test methods have been developed to accurately diagnose these problems. Perhaps the most well-known of these tests is the Skin Prick Test (DPT). This test, which is very reliable in determining type 1, that is, IgE-mediated allergies, is performed by applying natural allergen solutions to the skin.

Prick testing is a minimally invasive approach and offers a safe step towards identifying allergy. The procedure usually begins by making small scratches on a part of the patient's body, such as the inner surface of the arm. Various allergen drops are then placed on these small scratches and the allergen is allowed to penetrate the skin. By analyzing the reactions that appear on the skin (redness, blistering, etc.), substances that cause allergic reactions are detected.

One of the advantages of DPT is that results can be obtained in a very short time and a broad spectrum of allergens can be evaluated quickly. Additionally, its high sensitivity and specificity have made this test an integral part of allergy diagnostic procedures.

Intradermal Test (IDT), on the other hand, offers a more specific and sensitive allergy detection method. The use of this test is recommended when no significant response is obtained from tests applied to the skin surface. IDT works on the principle of injecting allergens under the skin and evaluates the skin's reaction to allergens in terms of both immediate and delayed type hypersensitivity.

The reactions caused by small amounts of allergens applied subcutaneously are extremely important in determining the degree of hypersensitivity. While IDT offers a more detailed test with a smaller amount of allergen compared to the Skin Prick Test, the longer reading time allows this test to provide a more in-depth evaluation.

Although the Intradermal Test gives more sensitive results than the Skin Prick Test, the application of this test requires more experienced personnel and careful application. Additionally, caution should be exercised in terms of potential side effects.

Patch Test

Patch Test, which has an extremely important place in detecting sensitivity reactions to allergens at the cellular level, is an effective method used to detect delayed type allergic reactions. One of the most important features of this test is that it provides almost no information about Immunoglobulin E (IgE)-related allergies. Therefore, it is a test used not in cases of IgE-mediated allergy, but rather in cases where there is direct contact with the skin.

Patch Test is frequently preferred in the investigation of allergic reactions to many chemicals, metal types and construction materials. This method is used to determine allergic contact dermatitis (allergy through contact) that may occur against any substance.

During the test, substances containing potential allergens are applied to the patient's skin and protected by covering it with a sterile tape. This tape, which is made in contact with the skin, is left on the skin for 24 to 72 hours, during which time the reactions of allergens on the skin - reactions such as redness, itching and blister formation - are observed. As a result of the test, the severity and type of reactions caused by allergens are evaluated by the magnitude and nature of the skin reactions that occur.

Blood test

Blood tests stand out as an effective alternative in the diagnosis of allergy, especially in cases where skin tests cannot be applied. Although it is considered to be less sensitive than skin tests, more reliable results can be obtained when evaluated together with skin tests in determining food allergies.

Skin allergy testing, such as patch testing, may not be suitable for individuals with skin damage or extreme skin reactions. In this case, blood tests are more appropriate. In this type of blood tests, allergens are detected by measuring specific IgE antibody levels on samples taken from the patient's blood. This method, which is especially preferred for children, represents a critical step in the identification of allergens and generally provides results with high specificity.