What is an immunoglobulins blood test?
This test measures the amount of immunoglobulins, also known as antibodies, in your blood. Antibodies are proteins made by the immune system to fight disease-causing substances, like viruses and bacteria. Your body makes different types of immunoglobulins to fight different types of these substances.
An immunoglobulins test usually measures three specific types of immunoglobulins. They are called igG, igM, and IgA. If your levels of igG, igM, or IgA are too low or too high, it may be a sign of a serious health problem.
Other names: quantitative immunoglobulins, total immunoglobulins, IgG, IgM, IgA testing
What is it used for?
An immunoglobulins blood test may be used to help diagnose a variety of conditions, including:
- Bacterial or viral infections
- Immunodeficiency, a condition that reduces the body's ability to fight infections and other diseases
- An autoimmune disorder, such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus. An autoimmune disorder causes your immune system to attack healthy cells, tissues, and/or organs by mistake.
- Certain types of cancer, such as multiple myeloma
- Infections in newborns
Why do I need an immunoglobulins blood test?
You may need this test if your health care provider thinks your immunoglobulin levels might be too low or too high.
Symptoms of levels that are too low include:
- Frequent and/or unusual bacterial or viral infections
- Chronic diarrhea
- Sinus infections
- Lung infections
- Family history of immunodeficiency
If your immunoglobulin levels are too high, it may be a sign of an autoimmune disease, a chronic illness, an infection, or a type of cancer. Symptoms of these conditions vary greatly. Your health care provider may use information from your physical exam, medical history, and/or other tests to see if you are at risk for one of these diseases.
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?
If your results show lower than normal levels of immunoglobulins, it may indicate:
If your results show higher than normal levels of immunoglobulins, it may indicate:
- An autoimmune disease
- A chronic infection
- A viral infection such as HIV or cytomegalovirus
- Multiple myeloma
- Non-Hodgkin lymphoma
If your results are not normal, it doesn't necessarily mean you have a medical condition needing treatment. The use of certain medicines, alcohol, and recreational drugs can affect your results. If you have questions about your results, talk to your health care provider.
Learn more about laboratory tests, reference ranges, and understanding results.
Is there anything else I need to know about an immunglobulins blood test?
Your health care provider may order other tests to help make a diagnosis. These tests might include urinalysis, other blood tests, or a procedure called a spinal tap. During a spinal tap, a health care provider will use a special needle to remove a sample of a clear liquid, called cerebrospinal fluid, from your back.
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