Background: It has been reported that total serum IgE is increased in patients with alcoholic cirrhosis, but it is not clear if this fact is related to alcoholic liver disease or to alcohol intake.
Objective: To measure serum IgE in a group of chronic alcoholics with different stages of liver injury in order to elucidate if IgE increase is related to alcoholic liver damage.
Patients and methods: Total serum IgE was determined by enzyme immunoassay in 186 chronic alcoholic patients (137 male/49 female) and 101 healthy controls. Patients and controls with known reasons for IgE elevation were excluded. Among alcoholic patients, 24 had fatty liver, 28 hepatic fibrosis, 29 alcoholic hepatitis, and 67 liver cirrhosis (38 patients were not evaluable concerning liver injury).
Results: Total serum IgE was found to be increased in alcoholics (median 154.5IU/mL, range 1–7329IU/mL) with respect to healthy controls (median 20IU/mL, range < 1–1417 IU/mL) (P < 0.001). IgE increase was moderate (180–1000 IU/mL) in 60 alcoholics (32.3%) and marked (> 1000 IU/mL) in 27 (14.5%). Male alcoholics had higher IgE levels than females (median 191 IU/mL and range 1–7329 IU/mL vs 105IU/mL and range 2–2189IU/mL) (P= 0.009). On logistic regression analysis, alcoholism, male sex and younger age (but not smoking) were independently associated with higher IgE levels. No clear relationship was noted between serum IgE and severity of alcoholic liver disease. Thus, no correlation was observed between IgE and parameters of liver function (serum bilirubin, albumin or prothrombin index). Likewise, IgE concentrations were not significantly different in patients with liver cirrhosis with respect to patients with less severe liver disease. Serum IgE was increased (> 180 IU/mL) in 47.8 % of cirrhotics and in 44% of patients without liver cirrhosis. In contrast, other immunoglobulins (IgG, IgA and IgM) were significantly correlated with liver dysfunction.
Conclusion: Chronic alcoholism should be considered as a cause of increased total serum IgE, regardless of the severity of the underlying liver disease.
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