Selective IgA deficiency is the most common primary immunodeficiency disease (PIDD). People with this disorder have absent levels of a blood protein called immunoglobulin A (IgA). IgA protects against infections of the mucous membranes lining the mouth, airways and digestive tract.
Although individuals with Selective IgA Deficiency do not produce IgA, they do produce all the other kinds of immunoglobulin. This is why many people with IgA deficiency appear healthy or only have mild illness such as gastrointestinal infections.
A common problem in IgA deficiency is susceptibility to infections. A second major problem in IgA deficiency is increased occurrence of autoimmune diseases. Also, many people with Selective IgA Deficiency also have allergies or asthma.
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The most common symptom of Selective IgA Deficiency is susceptibility to infections including:
- Ear infections
- Chronic diarrhea caused by gastrointestinal infections
IgA deficiency may also cause autoimmune disease, in which the immune system attacks itself. Common examples of these diseases are rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.
Diagnosis requires blood screening to show an IgA deficiency but normal levels of other immunoglobulins.
The underlying cause for Selective IgA Deficiency is unknown and there is currently no way to replace IgA in the body.
Unlike many other immunoglobulin deficiencies, the condition is not treated with immunoglobulin replacement therapy.
In cases where recurrent infections are a problem, preventative antibiotics may be used to help diminish the frequency of infections. Individuals with IgA deficiency often require a longer course of antibiotics for infections to clear up.
To learn more about PIDDs visit the Immune Deficiency Foundation website.