Sulfonamide medications (or sulfa drugs) are classified into two categories, and there are antibiotic and non-antibiotic sulfonamides. About 3 of every 100 people treated with sulfa drugs develop an allergic reaction to the medication, and these are mostly reactions to sulfa antibiotic drugs.
When someone is diagnosed with sulfa drugs, it means that this person has an allergic reaction to the medication. In many cases, people suffering from an allergy to penicillin drugs will be allergic to sulfonamides, too. Also, if someone suffers from health problems related to the immune system, he or she is more prone to develop allergy to sulfonamides as well.
Sulfamethoxazole, sulf(a)isomidine, sulfadoxine and sulfacetamide are some of the sulfa antibiotics that might cause an allergic reaction. There is also the possibility that a person using diuretic medications or anticonvulsants based on sulfonamides experiences allergy to the drugs. If you have been diagnosed with sulfa allergy you should avoid these medications, unless your doctor prescribe and recommend otherwise.
Symptoms of Sulfa Allergy
People allergic to sulfa drugs in most cases experience hives, rashes and photosensitivity. Some other common medical problems that may arise during the use of sulfa drugs include: blood problems, such as decrease of red and white blood cells and platelets and also liver and kidney damage. As the result of sulfa allergy some people are found to develop hepatitis or even kidney failure. Breathing problems are another possibility, because sulfa drugs affect the lungs. When a person suffers from asthma, sulfa allergy may cause worsening of their symptoms and in some cases pneumonia-like symptoms as well. There is one symptom, known as Stevens-Johnson syndrome, which might develop in patients allergic to sulfa drugs, and this is very serious condition, that can be life threatening.
Whatever the symptoms are, an allergic reaction to sulfa drugs should always be resolved with some medical help.
Diagnosis and Treatment for Sulfa Allergies
Although skin and blood tests are useful for many allergies, sulfa drugs allergy can’t be diagnosed this way. Only doctors can diagnose this condition, according to the symptoms of the patient in front of them.
First course of treatment is to quit using sulfa drugs immediately. After that, doctors concentrate on the symptoms and treat them accordingly. There are patients that will be advised to continue using sulfa drugs, if that’s in their best interest. In these cases, doctors monitor the patient and use medication cautiously.
However, there are some cases when the person has to continue using sulfa drugs. When that happens, doctors will desensitize the patient towards sulfa medications, using small amounts of the drug and increasing it over a certain period of time. This way, a patient’s body will be able to tolerate sulfa drugs.