Desensitization (medicine)

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Desensitization (medicine)
ICD-9-CM 99.12
MeSH D003888
OPS-301 code 8-030

In medicine, desensitization is a method to reduce or eliminate an organism's negative reaction to a substance or stimulus.

In pharmacology, drug desensitization is equivalent to drug tolerance, whereas drug sensitization is equivalent to reverse tolerance.

Application to allergies[edit]

For example, if a person with diabetes mellitus has a bad allergic reaction to taking a full dose of beef insulin, the person is given a very small amount of the insulin at first, so small that the person has no adverse reaction or very limited symptoms as a result. Over a period of time, larger doses are given until the person is taking the full dose. This is one way to help the body get used to the full dose, and to avoid having the allergic reaction to beef-origin insulin.

A temporary desensitization method involves the administration of small doses of an allergen to produces an IgE-mediated response in a setting where an individual can be resuscitated in the event of anaphylaxis; this approach, through uncharacterized mechanisms eventually overrides the hypersensitive IgE response.[1]

Desensitization approaches for allergies are generally at the research stage. They include:[2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ editor, Mariana C. Castells, (2011). Anaphylaxis and hypersensitivity reactions. New York: Humana Press. p. 60-62. ISBN 1603279512. 
  2. ^ Nowak-Węgrzyn A, Sampson HA (March 2011). "Future therapies for food allergies". J. Allergy Clin. Immunol. 127 (3): 558–73; quiz 574–5. doi:10.1016/j.jaci.2010.12.1098. PMC 3066474. PMID 21277625.