What is hypergammaglobulinemia?
Hypergammaglobulinemia is an uncommon condition that is usually the result of an infection, autoimmune disorder, or malignancy such as multiple myeloma. It’s characterized by elevated levels of immunoglobulins in your blood.
Immunoglobulins are antibodies circulating in your blood vessels and tissues that work to remove bacteria, viruses, fungi, and foreign substances from the blood. There are different types of antibodies in your blood. The most common antibody is Immunoglobulin G (IgG). People with hypergammaglobulinemia most often have increased levels of IgG.
Monoclonal and polyclonal gammopathies
Most cases of hypergammaglobulinemia are polyclonal gammopathies.
- A gammopathy is an abnormal increase in the body’s ability to produce antibodies.
- A monoclonal gammopathy is an abnormal increase in the production of antibodies using the same type of cell.
- A polyclonal gammopathy is an abnormal increase in the production of antibodies using many different types of cells.
Since the exact cause of hypergammaglobulinemia is still unknown, any virus, bacteria, fungi, or condition that interferes with the normal functioning of the immune system or the antibody response can be a potential cause of hypergammaglobulinemia.
Hypergammaglobulinemia might be the result of immune system dysfunction caused by certain infections, such as:
- bacterial infections
- viral infections
Other causes may include:
There are some forms of hypergammaglobulinemia that are familial diseases — a genetic condition that tends to arise more often in family members than would be expected by chance.
If you’re suffering from hypergammaglobulinemia, some common symptoms could include:
- increased blood count of gamma globulins
- deficiencies of certain antibodies
- swollen lymph nodes
If you’re concerned that you might have hypergammaglobulinemia, talk with your doctor about getting your blood tested.
High levels of gamma globulins in the blood are dangerous because these can lead to an increased likelihood of contracting viruses and infections.
Hypergammaglobulinemia leads to increased vulnerability to:
Since hypergammaglobulinemia is caused by other conditions, there aren’t many direct treatment options available. But you can improve or cure this condition by treating other underlying infections, immune disorders, and diseases.
One uncommon treatment for this condition is immunoglobulin replacement therapy. This therapy attempts to increase deficient antibodies to help the body return to homeostasis (a state of internal balance).
Hypergammaglobulinemia is an immune response. If you have this condition, your overall immune activity is lowered, which can lead to an increased susceptibility to viruses and infections.
Hypergammaglobulinemia is usually caused by other infections, diseases, or immune disorders. By curing any other conditions you might be experiencing, you stand a greater chance of curing hypergammaglobulinemia along with it.
If you’re concerned that you might be showing symptoms of hypergammaglobulinemia, see your doctor for a blood test to determine your immunoglobulin levels. Your doctor might recommend you to a hematologist — someone who specializes in blood, blood-forming organs, and blood diseases.