Immunoglobulin A (IgA) is a blood protein that’s part of your immune system. Your body makes IgA to help fight off sickness.
IgA is found in mucous membranes, mainly in the respiratory and GI tracts, and in saliva, tears, and breast milk. It seems to play a part in asthma and allergies. Researchers have also linked IgA to autoimmune health problems. These are health problems in which your body’s own immune system attacks your body by mistake.
Having an IgA deficiency means that you have low levels or no immunoglobulin A in your bloodstream.
IgA deficiency is a health problem passed down through families. This means it is genetic. In rare cases, it can be caused by medicines you are taking.
Most people with an IgA deficiency don’t have any symptoms of the health problem. It’s usually found on a blood test, if it’s found at all. Some people with an IgA deficiency are more likely to getting frequent infections. These can include sinus, lung, and GI infections. Some IgA deficiency patients also are more prone to allergies, GI, and autoimmune problems such as Celiac disease or lupus.
If IgA deficiency runs in your family and you have some of the above symptoms, you might be at risk. Blood tests can be used to see if IgA is missing in your blood.
There is no cure for IgA deficiency. Immunotherapy does not work to treat it. But you can take steps to lessen your risk for illness or infection. These include taking antibiotics when you get sick. If infections are ongoing (chronic), daily antibiotics may be needed.
Potential complications can include:
Because IgA deficiency is usually a problem that is passed down through your family, you can’t do anything to prevent it. But you can limit the spread of germs and sickness by washing your hands often and avoiding large crowds. This is especially true during cold and flu season. Also, talk with your health care provider about vaccinations that may help and when you should get them.
If you have immunoglobulin A deficiency and are worried about the risks of passing it on to your children, talk with a genetic counselor.
Immunoglobulin A (IgA) is a blood protein that’s part of your immune system. IgA is found in mucous membranes, especially in the respiratory and GI tracts. It is also found in saliva, tears, and breast milk.
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your health care provider:
The University of Chicago Medicine
5841 S. Maryland Avenue
Chicago, IL 60637 | 773-702-1000
Appointments: Call UCM Connect at 1-888-824-0200