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What is IGG Deficiency?

By D. Jeffress
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Immunoglobulin G (IgG) is a blood plasma component that is essential to healthy immune system functioning. IgG helps neutralize bacteria, viruses, and environmental toxins before they can infect and damage body cells. An IgG deficiency can leave a person susceptible to chronic and recurring infections, especially respiratory infections such as bronchitis and pneumonia. Most patients who have the condition need to take antibiotics on a regular basis and schedule frequent checkups with their doctors to prevent serious complications. In the case of a severe deficiency, periodic blood transfusions may be necessary to replenish IgG levels throughout the patient's life.

Several different factors can contribute to this disorder, but most cases are associated with inherited genetic disorders. X-linked agammaglobulinemia, a condition that primarily affects males, inhibits the development of IgG-creating B cells in the immune system. Genetic conditions tend to become prevalent in infancy or very early childhood. A person can also develop an IgG deficiency later in life due to protein malnutrition, kidney failure, or cancer. In addition, long-term use of anticonvulsants and immunosuppressive drugs for other conditions has been linked with diminished IgG levels.

An IgG deficiency itself does not normally cause physical symptoms, but it can leave the body highly vulnerable to frequent viral and bacterial infections. A person with this disorder is likely to experience recurring respiratory infections that can cause bronchitis, pneumonia, and obstructive lung disease. Chronic sinus infections, influenza, and bacteria-related skin infections are also common with IgG deficiencies. Severely low levels of IgG can also render vaccines useless, and vaccinations may actually trigger the illnesses they are designed to prevent.

A doctor usually decides to screen for IgG deficiency and other immune system disorders when a patient suffers from chronic infections. Blood samples are taken and analyzed in a hospital lab to measure IgG levels. If a patient has severe recurring respiratory problems, a computerized tomography scan may be performed to assess the physical damage to the lungs.

Some patients do not need to receive treatment directly targeted at their deficiencies. If IgG levels are moderately low, daily antibiotics and regular visits to the doctor's office may be sufficient. IgG replacement therapy, which involves transfusions every three to four weeks, may be needed if levels are very low. Surgery is not effective at improving a deficiency, but a procedure may be needed if infections have seriously damaged lung or sinus tissue. Most patients are able to manage their conditions when they take preventive measures against infections and follow their doctors' orders.

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Discussion Comments
By anon925484 — On Jan 12, 2014

Take colustrum and probiotics to boost your immune system when you're sick. Also take colloidal silver and oregano oil, both of which are amazing natural antibiotics that don't have side effects. I would try to avoid regular antibiotics at all costs, as they will wipe out your good bacteria too, and make you even more prone to infections.

By anon925483 — On Jan 12, 2014

take colustrum and probiotics to boost your immune system. when your sick, take colloidal silver and oregano oil, both of which are amazing natural antibiotics that don't have side effects. i would try to avoid regular antibiotics at all costs as they will wipe out your good bacteria too and make you even more prone to infections.

By anon336598 — On May 29, 2013

I am extremely upset with the medical community. My daughter was nine years old and she passed away six months ago due to bad asthma that progressively got worse over the years. My daughter was in and out of the hospital with different viral and bacterial infections, such as: urinary tract infections, pneumonia, and she always had a bad cough that wouldn't go away.

She started seeing a pulmonologist at five years old and her doctor tested her for different lung diseases because she couldn't understand how someone so healthy could have lungs that were so bad. I lay awake many nights worrying about her and I even told her doctor to test her immune system because I always felt that it wasn't working properly. No one ever tested her for anything but cystic fibrosis; that was the only disorder. They even told me that her immune system may be slightly suppressed due to her having asthma. So I thought that was the reason why her lungs were so bad and she was so sick all the time.

Well, after she passed, her dad ordered an autopsy against my request and I found out just now that my daughter had CVID -- a very rare immunodeficiency disorder. It stands for Common Variable Immunodeficiency Disease. It causes chronic lung infections, bad lungs, and all different kinds of infections. It makes the child feel very sick.

It makes me very angry as a good parent that no one in the medical community ever did anything to test my daughter to see what was making her so sick. If someone had taken the time out to do different tests my daughter might still be alive. I had to find out after it was too late.

My daughter died of this and I refuse to see any other children pass because of something they can be tested for and, if treated, can live normal lives without suffering like my precious daughter did.

I will continue to fight for children until I die. Parents, please, if your child has severe asthma or feels weak and tired quite often or gets sick a lot, please, please, please have them tested for an immune deficiency disease or have them tested for different lung diseases.

When children are sick frequently, it's not for nothing they are suffering and I don't want any other kids to suffer like my Ja'nya did. Don't let the medical community tell you that you are being paranoid or it's nothing to worry about. This is your child and it is our jobs as mothers to try and help our children any way we can. Much love to all the mothers out here. There is hope.

By anon296344 — On Oct 10, 2012

I am by no means an expert on this, nor am I a doctor. What I do have is real world experience with the IGG deficiency. My brother (who recently passed away at the age of 45), was diagnosed with this condition over 20 years ago.

Through the years, he was in and out of the hospital with different sicknesses. The most severe was with his lungs. At one point he had to have a partial lung removed, and this didn't help. I am guessing he had the more severe case of IGG deficiency. He went through hundreds of blood transfusions over the years, and they were a short term fix.

His body started rejecting all the medications the doctors were giving him and we were told that the medication he was on would eventually kill him (which it did). My brother fought this for over 20 years and I have seen firsthand what this can do to a human body, so if you think you have this or someone in your family does, I would get checked out right away.

I would never want to see anyone go through what my brother went through for over 20 years. He was a fighter, and fought until the end.

By anon288059 — On Aug 28, 2012

IGG deficiency is generally treated with replacement IGG, but that is is a patient by patient decision, because each person is different.

Sometimes, doctors will prescribe antibiotics daily for certain patients. There are over 150 different genetic primary immune deficiencies. A great resource is the IDF site for folks with immuno deficiencies. Also, the Jeffery Modell foundation is a great resource as well. Both have a lot of information to help. This is considered a rare disorder with around 250,000 persons diagnosed with a PIDD (primary immune deficiency disorder).

By burcidi — On Apr 22, 2012

@turquoise-- I don't know if Celiac disease causes IgG deficiency or if it's the other way around. But there seems to be a clear link between them.

One of my brothers has Celiac since birth, it's a disease where you can't have any gluten. He also has IgG and IgA deficiency. He was telling me that many Celiac patients have an immunoglobulin deficiency disease.

I personally think it works like vicious cycle. They probably cause each other or make each other worse, the deficiency probably causes Celiac and the Celiac feeds the deficiency.

By SteamLouis — On Apr 21, 2012

@turquoise-- I'm no expert and I think these questions are better directed to your doctor.

But as far as I know, IgG is only one subset of immunoglobulin deficiency. So even though you might not be producing enough IgG, you are still producing enough of other Ig subsets. That's why this deficiency makes you inclined towards certain kinds of infections, like respiratory infections as you mentioned.

I don't think most doctors give a definitive answer to this and there may still be ongoing research. But certain obvious viral infections that affect the immune system like HIV-Aids, will affect IgG levels.

I think you could probably find out if this is genetic or not and what the likelihood of passing it to your children is. You need to go to a genetic disease specialist.

By turquoise — On Apr 21, 2012

I was diagnosed with IgG deficiency recently after I had recurrent sinus infections.

I'm pretty surprised because I would have expected the results of an IgG deficiency to be much worse. I've always known that I'm pretty sensitive and tend to get sick quickly. I remember having upper respiratory infections a lot as a kid. It would take me over a month to get over a flu. I guess this deficiency has been around for a long time.

My doctor said that my IgG levels are not extremely low but I might need to take antibiotics for the rest of my life. He gave me some antibiotics now. We're going to do another blood test in several months to see if there is any changes.

I have a question about IgG deficiency causes. Can certain infection diseases lead to an IgG deficiency? Like a viral infection for example? Or is this only caused by genetic factors and serious disorder like organ failure?

And is there a way to test for this deficiency in fetuses? Because if it's genetic, it could end up in my kids too.

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