Insulin allergy

Clin Dermatol. 2011 May-Jun;29(3):300-5. doi: 10.1016/j.clindermatol.2010.11.009.


Insulin reactions occur rarely but are of tremendous clinical importance. The first was reported in 1922 as a callus reaction at the injection site of insufficiently purified bovine insulin. Porcine insulin was subsequently found to be less allergenic than bovine insulin. Increasingly pure insulins have decreased the risk of adverse reactions, and the production of recombinant insulin with the same amino sequence as human insulin saw a large decrease in adverse reactions. Currently, the prevalence of allergic reactions to insulin products appears to be approximately 2%, and less than one-third of these events have been considered related to the insulin itself. Other reactions occur due to the preservatives added to insulin, including zinc, protamine, and meta-cresol. Allergic reactions can be type I or immunoglobulin E-mediated, type III or Arthus, and type IV or delayed-type hypersensitivity reactions. Type I reactions are the most common and can, rarely, cause anaphylaxis. In contrast, type IV reactions can occur after a delay of several days. Investigations include skin prick testing, patch testing, intradermal testing, and occasionally, skin biopsy.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cattle
  • Drug Hypersensitivity / epidemiology
  • Drug Hypersensitivity / etiology*
  • Humans
  • Hypersensitivity, Delayed / chemically induced
  • Hypersensitivity, Immediate / chemically induced
  • Hypoglycemic Agents / adverse effects*
  • Immunoglobulin E / immunology
  • Insulin / adverse effects*
  • Insulin / chemistry
  • Preservatives, Pharmaceutical / adverse effects
  • Swine


  • Hypoglycemic Agents
  • Insulin
  • Preservatives, Pharmaceutical
  • Immunoglobulin E