Common Variable Immunodeficiency (CVID) Education
How CVID affects the immune system
Common variable immunodeficiency (CVID) is a genetic disorder that causes people to develop frequent infections. Since people with CVID struggle with weak immune systems, they are treated with medical care throughout their entire lifetime.
CVID is a genetic disorder that affects the immune system. People with this condition have low levels of antibodies—the proteins that fight infections—in their blood. When the body does not have sufficient antibodies, people experience chronic infections, which typically develop in the sinuses, ears, and respiratory system.
What is common variable immunodeficiency (CVID)?
CVID is classified as a primary immunodeficiency disease (PIDD). These diseases are genetic disorders in which a person’s immune system does not function properly.
What causes CVID?
A genetic mutation, or change, causes CVID. In most cases, this genetic mutation, as well as CVID symptoms, will develop without any apparent cause. In about 10 percent of cases, CVID is hereditary, or passed down among family members.
CVID results from defects in the genes involved with the immune system. These defects cause the body to produce abnormally low amounts of a proteins called immunoglobulins, including immunoglobulin G (IgG). Low levels of IgG in the blood can make it difficult for the body to fight infections.
What are the common symptoms of CVID?
CVID symptoms vary widely from person to person. They can range from mild to severe. Signs and symptoms of CVID include:
- Breathing problems
- Chronic cough
- Diarrhea that causes weight loss
- Ear infections
- Frequent sinus infections
- Recurring lung infections
How do doctors diagnose CVID?
A doctor might recognize CVID as a possible cause if the patient has signs of an immune disorder or has unusual reactions to vaccines.
Doctors will ask about family medical history and order blood tests. A sample of blood can reveal signs of CVID, including low levels of immunoglobulin G (IgG). Low levels of IgG in the blood can make it difficult for the body to fight infections.
Are there available treatments for CVID?
If a diagnosis of CVID is made, a doctor will prescribe intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIg) therapy to prevent infections. People who require infusion therapy for CVID will require treatments throughout their entire lives—it’s not a one-time treatment or cure.
IVIg therapy replaces missing immunoglobulin with antibodies from the blood of a pool of healthy donors. Patients receive this treatment intravenously (through a needle inserted into the vein) or by an injection under the skin (subcutaneous immunoglobulin treatment, or SCIg).
A doctor may also prescribe antibiotics to treat infections related to CVID, and other medications to manage complications of CVID.
Are there complications associated with CVID?
People with CVID have an increased risk of developing complications, including:
- Autoimmune disorders: Conditions where the body’s immune system harms its own cells. Some people with CVID develop immune thrombocytopenia (a low level of platelets in the blood) or autoimmune hemolytic anemia (when the body’s immune system destroys red blood cells)
- Bronchiectasis: Permanent damage to the lungs from recurrent infections
- Cancers: Conditions including lymphoma and stomach cancer
- Granulomas: Inflamed cells in the skin, lungs, and other organs
Is CVID a preventable condition?
CVID is not a preventable condition. It is passed down genetically through family and is present throughout a person’s life.
What is the outlook for people with CVID?
Unfortunately, CVID has no cure. With ongoing treatment, many people with the disorder live active and fulfilling lives. See Shawn’s story.
When should people seek out a healthcare provider with concerns about CVID?
For patients with frequent infections or other symptoms of CVID, it’s important to contact a primary care physician for further information, diagnosis, and treatment plans.
Patients coping with CVID face many challenges throughout their care journey. Their care team—including primary care physician, immunologist, and specialty infusion team at PromptCare—seek to provide accurate diagnosis, quality care, and an effective infusion treatment plan to help manage CVID.
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