What role does the immune system play in hives?
Chronic hives are most often a result of irregularities in the immune system.1 This is an active area of research. Scientists are continually learning more about the role of the immune system in chronic hives. What is clear is that hives are a result of your immune system activating mast cells, which are the cells that release histamines and other chemicals into the skin to cause the red, itchy bumps.
Chronic spontaneous urticaria has been linked to autoreactivity, autoimmunity and autoallergy. These are different processes within the immune system that all cause the activation of mast cells.1
- Autoreactivity/autoimmunity -approximately 50% of chronic spontaneous urticaria people have an autoantibody which attaches to mast cells and basophils to activate them.1
- Autoallergy - some chronic spontaneous urticaria people may have an allergy antibody that recognises a protein in their body, such as a thyroid protein, resulting in mast cell activation.1 It is not a real allergy because the reaction is caused by something within your body rather than something external such as food, pollen or a plant.
- Other immune disorders - there is also a strong association between chronic spontaneous urticaria and other autoimmune disorders.2
Explore on this siteThe different types of hives (urticaria) Is it chronic hives or chronic urticaria? Classification of hives (urticaria)
Locate a specialistAustralasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy (ASCIA) Skin & Cancer Foundation Australasian College of Dermatologists
- Asero R et al. F1000Research 2017; 6:1095.
- Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy. ASCIA Chronic Spontaneous Urticaria (CSU) Guidelines. 2015. (accessed 9 October 2018).