What is an immunoglobulins blood test?
This test measures the amount of immunoglobulins in your blood. Immunoglobulins are also called antibodies. Antibodies are proteins that your immune system makes to fight germs, such as viruses and bacteria. When you're exposed to germs, your body makes unique antibodies that are specifically designed to destroy only those germs.
An immunoglobulins test usually measures three main types of immunoglobulin (Ig) antibodies that do different jobs to protect your health:
- IgM antibodies are the first immunoglobulins your body makes after you're exposed to germs. They provide short-term protection while your body makes other antibodies. IgM antibodies are in your blood and lymph fluid (a watery fluid that carries the cells that fight infections and diseases to all parts of your body).
- IgG antibodies are very important for fighting infections from bacteria and viruses. Most of the immunoglobulins in your blood are IgG. You also have some IgG antibodies in all your body fluids. Your body keeps a "blueprint" of all the IgG antibodies you have made. That way, if you're exposed to the same germs again, your immune system can quickly make more antibodies.
- IgA antibodies protect your respiratory tract (the organs you use to breathe) and your digestive system (the organs you use to eat and digest food) from infections. You have IgA antibodies in your blood, saliva, and gastric "juices."
An immunoglobulins blood test measures the amounts of IgM, IgG, and IgA in your blood to help diagnose different types of health conditions that may affect your immune system.
Other names: quantitative immunoglobulins, total immunoglobulins, IgG, IgM, IgA testing
What is it used for?
An immunoglobulins blood test may be used to:
- Check the health of your immune system if you are often sick with infections or diarrhea
- Help diagnose and monitor a variety of conditions that may cause abnormal levels of IgM, IgG, and/or IgA, such as:
- Autoimmune disorders. With these disorders your immune system attacks your own healthy cells by mistake, including cells that make immunoglobulins. Examples of autoimmune disorders include rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.
- Certain types of cancer that affect your bone marrow, blood, or immune system
- Chronic (long-term) infections
- Genetic diseases you're born with (uncommon)
- Check for certain infections a baby may be born with, including syphilis or toxoplasmosis
Why do I need an immunoglobulins blood test?
You may need this test if you have symptoms that could mean your immunoglobulin levels are too low. If you have too few immunoglobulins, you have an immunodeficiency.
Symptoms of low levels of immunoglobulins usually include having many, repeated infections and other problems, such as:
- Sinus, throat, and ear infections
- Respiratory infections, such as pneumonia and bronchitis
- Serious infections from germs that don't usually cause problems in healthy people, such as:
- Cytomegalovirus (a virus related to chickenpox)
- A yeast infection in the mouth, eyes, or digestive tract (thrush)
You may need an immunoglobulins test if immunodeficiency runs in your family, or your health care provider thinks you may have a problem making normal levels of immunoglobulins.
You may also need this test if your provider thinks you may have high levels of immunoglobulins from an autoimmune disease or a cancer that affects your blood, bone marrow, and/or immune system. These cancers may cause a very high level of certain immunoglobulins. But those immunoglobulins don't work normally. So, even though your levels are high, you may have frequent infections and other symptoms of low immunoglobulin levels.
What happens during an immunoglobulins blood test?
A health care professional will take a blood sample from a vein in your arm, using a small needle. After the needle is inserted, a small amount of blood will be collected into a test tube or vial. You may feel a little sting when the needle goes in or out. This usually takes less than five minutes.
Will I need to do anything to prepare for the test?
You don't need any special preparations for an immunoglobulins blood test.
Are there any risks to the test?
There is very little risk to having a blood test. You may have slight pain or bruising at the spot where the needle was put in, but most symptoms go away quickly.
What do the results mean?
Your provider will compare your levels of IgM, IgG, and IgA. Your results can mean different things, depending on which immunoglobulins are high or low, your symptoms, and any conditions you may have. An immunoglobulins blood test alone cannot diagnose any conditions. So if your results aren't normal, you'll probably need more testing to find out what's affecting your immune system.
Some possible causes of low levels of one or more immunoglobulins are:
- Conditions that may reduce the amount of protein in your body, including:
- Kidney disease
- Serious burns
- Certain malabsorption disorders
- Conditions that affect your ability to make immunoglobulins, including:
- Complications from diabetes
- Kidney failure
- A genetic disease that you were born with, such as common variable immunodeficiency disorder (CVID)
Some possible causes of high levels of one or more immunoglobulins are:
- An autoimmune disease
- A chronic infection
- Certain cancers. These cancers often cause a very high level of one type of immunoglobulin and low levels for the other types:
- Multiple myeloma
- Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL)
- Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia
If your immunoglobulin levels aren't normal, it doesn't always mean you have a condition that needs treatment. Certain medicines can affect your results. If you have questions about your results, talk with your provider.
Learn more about laboratory tests, reference ranges, and understanding results.
Is there anything else I need to know about an immunoglobulins blood test?
If your symptoms suggest that an immune condition may be affecting your spine or brain, your provider may order an immunoglobulin test on a sample of your cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). If your symptoms include frequent colds, sinus infections, or diarrhea, your saliva may be tested for IgA levels.
- Hinkle J, Cheever K. Brunner & Suddarth's Handbook of Laboratory and Diagnostic Tests. 2nd Ed, Kindle. Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer Health, Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; c2014. Quantitative Immunoglobulins: IgA, IgG, and IgM; 442–3 p.
- Johns Hopkins Medicine [Internet]. Johns Hopkins Medicine; c2022. Health Library: Lumbar Puncture (LP) [cited 2022 Jun 2]; [about 7 screens]. Available from: https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/treatment-tests-and-therapies/lumbar-puncture
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- Mayo Clinic: Mayo Medical Laboratories [Internet]. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; c1995–2022. Test ID: IMMG: Immunoglobulins (IgG, IgA, and IgM), Serum: Clinical and Interpretative [cited 2022 Jun 2]; [about 3 screens]. Available from: https://www.mayocliniclabs.com/test-catalog/overview/8156#Clinical-and-Interpretive
- Merck Manual Consumer Version [Internet]. Kenilworth (NJ): Merck & Co. Inc.; c2022. Autoimmune Disorders [modified 2020 Oct; cited 2022 Jun 2]; [about 6 screens]. Available from: http://www.merckmanuals.com/home/immune-disorders/allergic-reactions-and-other-hypersensitivity-disorders/autoimmune-disorders
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What is an immunoglobulins blood test? This test measures the amount of immunoglobulins in your blood. Immunoglobulins are also called antibodies. Antibodies are proteins that your immune system makes to fight germs, such as viruses and bacteria.What blood test shows immunoglobulins? ›
An IgA test measures the blood level of immunoglobulin A, one of the most common types of antibodies in the body. Antibodies (also called immunoglobulins) are proteins the immune system makes to recognize and get rid of germs.When should I be worried about globulin levels? ›
Globulin and albumin are proteins found in the blood. Levels that are too high can indicate autoimmune disease, infections or cancers. Low levels may be a sign of liver or kidney problems. Your provider will order additional tests to make a diagnosis.What is the normal range for immunoglobulin blood test? ›
Normal Ranges Adult: IgG 6.0 - 16.0g/L. IgA 0.8 - 3.0g/L. IgM 0.4 - 2.5g/L.Is there a blood test for immunoglobulin deficiency? ›
A blood test that measures immunoglobulin levels can diagnose IgG deficiency. It's possible to have a normal level of total IgG, so the testing of the IgG subclasses is important. Tests can also be done on saliva and cerebrospinal fluid. But, a blood test is the most common.Why would a doctor order an immunoglobulin test? ›
Doctors may check immunoglobulin levels to see if a person has an infection or is protected from getting an infection (is immune to it). Doctors also use immunoglobulin tests to help diagnose immunodeficiencies (when the immune system isn't working as it should).What does high immunoglobulins in blood test mean? ›
High levels of IgG may mean a long-term (chronic) infection, such as HIV, is present. Levels of IgG also get higher in IgG multiple myeloma, long-term hepatitis, and multiple sclerosis (MS).What cancers cause high globulin? ›
- Inflammatory disease.
- Immune disorders.
- Certain cancers, such as multiple myeloma, Hodgkin lymphoma (also called Hodgkin disease), or malignant lymphoma.
High globulin levels may be a sign of:
Certain types of blood cancers, such as multiple myeloma, Hodgkin disease, or leukemia. Hemolytic anemia. An autoimmune disease, such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis.
Sometimes, multiple myeloma is found early when a routine blood test shows an abnormally high amount of protein in the blood. People with MGUS (monoclonal gammopathy of unknown significance) or solitary plasmacytoma are at risk of developing multiple myeloma and have regular bloodwork to monitor for it.
The results of the tests for IgG, IgA, and IgM levels are usually evaluated together. Abnormal test results typically indicate that there is something affecting the immune system and suggest the need for further testing. Immunoglobulins testing is not diagnostic but can be a strong indicator of a disease or condition.What happens if immunoglobulin is low? ›
Some people with an IgA deficiency are more likely to get frequent infections. These can include sinus, lung, and digestive infections. Some people with IgA deficiency also are more likely to have allergies, and digestive and autoimmune problems such as celiac disease or lupus.What are immunoglobulins also known as? ›
Immunoglobulins, also known as antibodies, are glycoprotein molecules produced by plasma cells (white blood cells). They act as a critical part of the immune response by specifically recognizing and binding to particular antigens, such as bacteria or viruses, and aiding in their destruction.What diseases cause low immunoglobulin? ›
Systemic disorders such as severe burns, nephrotic syndromes, severe diarrhea, and malnutrition can also be causes of low immunoglobulins. Proper history and examination are essential for adequate evaluation and assessment.What is the most common immunoglobulin deficiency? ›
Immunoglobulin A (IgA) deficiency is a common primary immunodeficiency characterized by undetectable serum IgA, a concomitant lack of secretory IgA, and normal levels of other immunoglobulins.What type of doctor treats immunoglobulin deficiency? ›
You'll likely start by seeing your family doctor or primary doctor. You might then be referred to a doctor who specializes in disorders of the immune system (immunologist).What is the difference between IgG and IgA testing? ›
IgG is found in your blood and tissue. IgM is mostly found in your blood. IgA is found at high levels in fluid your mucus membranes make, such as saliva, tears, and nasal secretions. IgE is mostly attached to immune system cells in your blood.What does IgA mean in a blood test? ›
Immunoglobulin A (IgA) is an antibody that's part of your immune system. IgA is found in mucous membranes, especially in the respiratory and digetive tracts. It is also found in saliva, tears, and breastmilk.What are the symptoms of low immunoglobulins? ›
- Sinus infections and other respiratory infections.
- Digestive tract infections.
- Ear infections.
- Bronchitis that keeps coming back, which can lead to permanent lung damage.
- Infections that cause a sore throat.
- Severe and life-threatening infections (rare)
Lymphocyte Proliferation Test
The Lymphocyte Proliferation Assay (LPA) is a test used to measure the ability of lymphocytes to proliferate in response to various stimuli such as candida, pokeweed and phytohaemagglutinin.