These Questions & Answers originally appeared in the IDF monthly e-newsletter, Primary Immune Tribune. Click here to subscribe.
Is Hypogammaglobulinemia the same as Common Variable Immune Deficiency (CVID)?
No, but sometimes even clinicians mistake one for the other. Hypogammaglobulinemia is a term used to describe someone with low levels of immunoglobulin (Ig) in the blood. There are four classes of immunoglobulin, IgA, IgG, IgM and IgE. As more and more primary immunodeficiency diseases (PI) have been recognized over the past seven decades, it is now known that low levels of immunoglobulins and antibodies can be found in a number of these diseases.
One of these conditions is Common Variable Immune Deficiency (CVID). The diagnosis of CVID requires that the individual be older than 2 years of age and have blood levels of IgG at least two Standard Deviations below the normal mean for age. This means IgG levels at least below those found in 97% of individuals matched for age, plus at least similarly low levels of IgA or IgM or both. Patients with CVID must also fail to make a protective amount of antibodies following challenge with a vaccine like tetanus or pneumococcal vaccines. Unlike patients with X-linked Agammaglobulinemia (Bruton's Agammaglobulinemia), patients with CVID do have B cells, but they do not work properly. To learn more about both CVID and Hypogammaglobulinemia, click here.
I have Selective IgA Deficiency and am prone to both bacterial and viral infections. What are my treatment options?
Unfortunately, limited treatment options are available for those with IgA deficiency. There is nothing that can be given to replace the missing IgA. Treatment should be directed toward the particular infection. Antibiotic treatment should be targeted to the specific organism causing the infection. Some individuals with chronic infections can use an antibiotic prophylactic regimen to help prevent infections. Annual influenza immunizations are recommended for patients with IgA deficiency, but antibiotics will not be helpful for common viral infections. It is very important to discuss this with your immunologist. We hope this helps. Good luck!
These answers should not be used as a substitute for professional medical advice. In all cases, patients and caregivers should consult their healthcare providers. Each patient’s condition and treatment are unique.