Can I Receive Acupuncture if I Have a Metal Allergy or Sensitivity to Certain Metals?

Learn about metal allergies or sensitivities when considering acupuncture treatment. Find out what tests should be done before surgery for those with metal allergies.

Can I Receive Acupuncture if I Have a Metal Allergy or Sensitivity to Certain Metals?

Treatment with traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) may have anti-inflammatory and antihypersensitive effects on metal-induced reactions to delayed-type hypersensitivity (DTH). Metal allergy is not uncommon among orthopedic patients, and patch testing should be done when there is a history or even just a dubious history of metal allergy. Allergy induced by external fixation metals is type IV hypersensitivity (DTH) that presents as contact dermatitis. Treatment with TCM alleviated the symptoms of hypersensitivity associated with metal allergy, helping to support the external fixative for a sufficient time until the bone is bonded.

Allergic contact dermatitis caused by a stainless steel infusion needle was reported, and microanalysis of the needle revealed 8% nickel. He reported a patient who had dermatitis following contact with acupuncture needles that also contained nickel. In the two previous cases, the dimethylglyoxime (DMG) test performed on the culprit needles was negative, as was also observed in our case. Since in our center we did not have the possibility to analyze the composition of the needle, in our case we were unable to accurately measure the nickel content.

Mercury is known to be highly toxic to the human body, especially to the brain. Mercury tends to affect the renal system in Chinese medicine, which includes the brain, bones, adrenal glands and, ironically, teeth. Research has shown that 90% of the population is allergic to mercury and 95% is allergic to copper. This means that almost everyone is allergic to amalgam dental fillings.

An allergy to this dental work can cause other allergies and sensitivities, and is a major cause of chemical sensitivity. The treatment of hypersensitivity to metals is highly individualized, as allergens and reactions can be very different from person to person. Hypersensitivity can occur when the body begins to see the metal implant as a foreign body and the immune system attacks it. If the test shows that white blood cells are more active when exposed to metal ions, it indicates the presence of hypersensitivity to metals. Medical equipment, such as orthopedic implants, orthopedic appliances, syringes and infusion pumps, contain nickel in significant quantities, and the nickel ions they release when they come into contact with human skin cause sensitization, especially when contact is prolonged.

It is estimated that up to 17% of women and 3% of men are allergic to nickel and that between 1% and 3% of people are allergic to cobalt and chromium. A study recently published in the journal BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders suggests that, given the high percentage of hypersensitivity to metals (up to 10 percent of the population), especially to nickel, and the presence of nickel in standard knee implants, it should be crucial to check the patient's sensitivity before surgery to avoid reactions. In fact, any implant or metal device, whether it's a spinal cord stimulator, like the one Pat had, a dental implant to replace missing teeth, or a hip or knee arthroplasty, can cause a hypersensitivity reaction. Heidi Hawkins earned her master's degree from the Northwest Institute of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NIAOM) in 1994. Because of the difficult nature of treating systemic metal allergies, doctors sometimes recommend a hypersensitivity test before choosing an implant. The signs and symptoms of metal hypersensitivity can range from small and localized to more severe and widespread. To determine the possible causes of exposure to metals, your doctor may ask if you have any type of implant, if you smoke, or if you use any cosmetics regularly. Therefore, external use of Golden Cypress and Cortex Dictamni may have anti-inflammatory and antihypersensitive functions for metal-induced contact dermatitis through these mechanisms.

It differs from allergic reactions in that cells released as part of an allergic reaction are not involved in implant rejection. A recent review suggested that up to 5 percent of all patients who have had total joint metal arthroplasty and up to 21 percent of patients with sensitivity to existing metals may develop hypersensitivity reactions when re-exposed to the same metal. In summary, TCM had a significant effect on the symptoms of contact dermatitis from type IV hypersensitivity reactions induced by external metal fixation. This is because patients are “sensitized” to react to a certain metal and women are more at risk of suffering from it than men, adds Mr. Hart.

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