What Are IgA & IgE Levels?

Written by doug bennett
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What Are IgA & IgE Levels?
High levels of the lgE antibody can be responsible for chronic allergies. (BananaStock/BananaStock/Getty Images)

Immunoglobulins, such as lgA and lgE, are a key part of your body's immune system. When healthy, this system effectively neutralises foreign threats. However, high or low levels of immunoglobulins can indicate the presence of chronic infections, diseases or cancer. When necessary, your doctor can use a simple blood test to confirm whether your lgA and lgE levels are at the appropriate levels.

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Immunoglobulin Basics

Immunoglobulins, also known as antibodies, are part of the body's immune system. These antibodies help protect the body from harmful foreign threats, known as antigens, such as bacteria, parasites, fungi, viruses, dander and cancer cells. Each immunoglobulin is specifically designed by the immune system to attach to a specific antigen. By attaching to these threats, the antibodies identify the threat so other parts of the immune system can destroy them. While each antibody is unique, there are five primary types: lgA, lgG, lgM, lgE and lgD.

The lgA Immunoglobulin

The immunoglobulin lgA accounts for approximately 10 per cent to 15 per cent of the body's antibodies. This type of immunoglobulin is tasked with protecting areas that are regularly exposed to foreign substances, such as the nose, breathing passageways, digestive tract, ears, eyes and vagina. The lgA antibody is also found in bodily fluids, such as saliva, tears and blood.

The lgE Immunoglobulin

The immunoglobulin lgE accounts for only a trace amount of the body's antibodies. This type of immunoglobulin is found in the lungs, skin and mucus membranes. These antibodies trigger an immunological response to pollen, fungus spores and dander. They are often high in individuals with allergies, such as hay fever and asthma. The lgE antibody can also produce allergic reactions to milk and some medicines and poisons.

High Levels of lgA

High levels of lgA can indicate the presence of multiple myeloma, also known as Kahler's disease, a cancer of the plasma cells. High levels can also indicate a chronic infection, especially of the gastrointestinal tract. High levels of lgA can also be an indication of some autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, and liver diseases, such as cirrhosis and chronic hepatitis.

High Levels of lgE

High levels of lgE can indicate the presence of a parasitic infection or allergies, such as asthma and atopic dermatitis. High levels of this type of antibody can also be an indicator of some types of cancer and autoimmune diseases. In rare cases, high lgE can indicate multiple myeloma.

Low Levels of lgA and lgE

A low level of lgA is the most common type of immunoglobulin deficiency. Individuals suffering from this condition are typically more susceptible to colds, although the condition is seldom severe. An lgA deficiency can be hereditary, with a small percentage of people born with low or no lgA antibodies. Low levels of this type of antibody can also indicate some types of leukaemia, kidney damage or problems with the intestines. In rare cases, low levels of lgA can indicate ataxia-telangiectasia, a rare, inherited disease that affects muscle coordination. Low levels of lgE can be an indicator of ataxia-telangiectasia.

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