If you thought that peanut allergy was giving you trouble, you’ve certainly never heard of poor Mr. A and his Post Orgasmic Illness Syndrome. POIS, as first identified by a group of Dutch doctors in 2002, is exactly what it sounds like . . . a sickness you get from your own ejaculation.
For 50-year-old Mr. A, who is leaving his name out because of the sensitive nature of his problem, any orgasm would lead to fever, weakness, exhaustion, loss of initiative, headache, disordered speech, irritability, frightening dreams, and swollen lips and throat. And as if that laundry list wasn’t bad enough, the effects could last for a few days, depending on the severity.
Psychological or Physical?
This specific case study, published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine by the same doctors that made that breakthrough in 2002, was originally thought to be tied to the psyche. There’s a similar syndrome called “dhat,” in which men in India and Sri Lanka experience a mental block that leaves them fearful of ejaculating. But that all changed when doctors in the United Kingdom discovered similar symptoms and realized the issues improved dramatically by taking anti-inflammatory drugs before and after an orgasm. This, they said, would indicate an immune system reaction.
From there, Mr. A, along with 44 other men who were exhibiting similar symptoms, underwent a battery of allergy prick-testing. Twenty-nine of those 45 volunteers had classic allergic reactions when exposed to their own semen, the first strong tie between POIS and physical causation.
And now it was time to figure out a treatment.
Attack the Allergy
Mr. and Mrs. A were desperate for relief, so doctors treated him the same way you might undergo a course for food allergies: a technique called “hypo-sensitization” that uses the very substance you’re allergic to as a cure. Over the course of 31 months, they gradually inoculated Mr. A with his very own ejaculate, originally diluting it 40,000 times and gradually working up to a dilution of 1-to-20. And well before they could hit the three-year mark, the treatment worked.
Mr. A was able to take Mrs. A to the bedroom without any of the debilitating problems that he had long suffered. The couple no longer had to rigidly plan their sex life around events and were eventually able to have a normal sex life that resulted in only mild and short-lived POIS episodes.
Still a Mystery?
So why were these men allergic to their own semen in the first place? While it’s somewhat more common for a woman to be allergic to her partner’s orgasm, an allergy to your own creation is a much bigger puzzle. In fact, scientists don’t even have a conclusive answer. Their best guess is that there’s a gap in the seminal plumbing that somehow allows the semen to contact immune cells, which sets off the entire system.
But no matter the cause, Mr. A and the men like him finally have a name for their illness, as well as an interesting course of treatment. And that’s a real victory for the world of modern medicine . . . and for anyone who’s used to dreading their sex life.
Kelland, Health, Kate, and Science Correspondent. "Semen Allergy Suspected." Reuters. Thomson Reuters, 17 Jan. 2011. Web. 16 May 2012. <http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/01/17/us-semen-allergy-idUSTRE70G00D20110117>.
Bhugra, Dinesh. "The British Journal of Psychiatry." Culture-bound Syndromes: The Story of Dhat Syndrome. Web. 16 May 2012. <http://bjp.rcpsych.org/content/184/3/200.long>.
"Allergic to Orgasms? Man's Sad Story Has Happy Ending." The Body Odd. Web. 16 May 2012. <http://bodyodd.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2011/01/19/5880559-allergic-to-orgasms-mans-sad-story-has-happy-ending?lite>.