Immunoglobulin A (IgA), one of the five primary immunoglobulins, plays a pivotal role in mucosal homeostasis in the gastrointestinal, respiratory, and genitourinary tracts, functioning as the dominant antibody of immunity in this role.
What is an immunoglobulin?
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. The antibody immune response is highly complex and exceedingly specific. The various immunoglobulin classes and subclasses (isotypes) differ in their biological features, structure, target specificity, and distribution.
Immunoglobulin A (IgA) is the second most abundant immunoglobulin type found in the body and, consequently, has a crucial role in protection against antigens.
IgA production is greater than all other immunoglobulin subtypes, necessary for the many roles it plays systemically.
IgA protects against infections of the mucous membranes lining the mouth, airways, and diggestive tract. Found in mucosal areas, such as the gut, respiratory tract and urogenital tract, and prevents colonization by pathogens. Also found in saliva, tears, and breast milk.
- 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.
- IgA deficiency is a genetic health problem that can be passed down through families.
- Most people with an IgA deficiency don’t have any symptoms.
- There is no cure for IgA deficiency. Immunotherapy does not work to treat it.
- Complications for IgA deficiency include asthma, diarrhea, ear and eye infections, autoimmune diseases, and pneumonia.
Immunoglobulin A (IgA) is an antibody blood protein that’s part of your immune system. Your body makes IgA and other type of antibodies to help fight off sickness. Having an IgA deficiency means that you have low levels of or no IgA in your blood.
IgA is found in mucous membranes, mainly in the respiratory and digestive tracts. It is also found saliva, tears, and breastmilk. A deficiency seems to play a part in asthma and allergies. Researchers have also linked IgA deficiency to autoimmune health problems. These are health problems that cause your body’s immune system to attack your body by mistake.
Some people are born with low or absent levels of IgA. Low levels occur in some types of leukemia, kidney damage (nephrotic syndrome), a problem with the intestines (enteropathy), and a rare inherited disease that affects muscle coordination (ataxia-telangiectasia). This increases the chances of developing an autoimmune disease. Patients with low IgA are at some increased risk of developing severe reactions after receiving blood products.
Most people with an IgA deficiency do not have any symptoms. About 1 in 4 to 1 in 2 people with selective IgA deficiency will be affected. 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.
Elevated IgA levels are nonspecific, but can be seen in pulmonary and gastrointestinal inflammatory diseases, some autoimmune conditions, liver disease, and plasma cell disorders.
IgA antibodies are found in the mucous membranes of the lungs, sinuses, stomach, and intestines. They're also in fluids these membranes produce, like saliva and tears, as well as in the blood.
Some possible causes of high levels of one or more immunoglobulins are:
- An autoimmune disease
- Chronic infection/inflammation
- Diabetes and diabetic complications
- Obesity / Metabolic syndrome
- IgA nephropathy or Berger's disease
- Rheumatoid arthritis with high titres of rheumatoid factor
- SLE (occurs in some patients)
- Sarcoidosis (occurs in some patients)
- Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome
High levels can be due to 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 are not normal, it does not 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 healthcare provider.
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