Common Variable Immunodeficiency and Fatigue

Is there a connection between a common variable immunodeficiency and fatigue?

Common variable immunodeficiency (CVID) is a complex disease that is characterized by patients having a significant deficiency in immunoglobulins – more commonly known as antibodies. The most common side effect of having a weakened or depressed immune system is recurring infections.

CVID can begin from early childhood, however, most individuals are diagnosed later in life, beginning at 30 to 40 years of age. In large part, the diagnosis of CVID isn't made until adulthood because immune systems take a while to develop.

Is CVID popular?

Common variable immunodeficiency is said to impact roughly 1 in 25,000 people around the globe, according to the U.S. Library of Medicine. It affects both men and women at similar rates and is thought to be hereditary in roughly 10% of cases. When stacked up against the other 179 primary immunodeficiency disorders, it's relatively common if you look at it from this angle.

The science behind CVID

People with CVID typically lack all three main immunoglobulin classes, including:

  1. IgG
  2. IgA
  3. IgM

The scientific labels for missing or reduced antibodies are agammaglobulinemia and hypogammaglobulinemia.

Checking the blood count

Physicians often discover that someone has CVID after completing a thorough blood count. If the patient is chronically anemic or has low platelets, this may indicate that it is indeed common variable immunodeficiency.

Common variable immunodeficiency and fatigue

Common variable immunodeficiency and fatigue: In support groups such as Patients Like Me, one of the most common symptoms of the disease is extreme fatigue. Other individuals report feelings of anxiety and depression, as well as insomnia and gastrointestinal disorders.

Treatments for fatigue and CVID

Common variable immunodeficiency and fatigue treatments: An initial diagnosis of CVID can be scary but there is hope. Continuous research and advances in medicinal therapies have helped patients keep their symptoms under control, despite the fact there is no cure.

It takes a village to raise immunoglobulin levels

If you've had a lifetime of recurrent infections or suffer from chronic fatigue as a result of CVID, your primary physician will organize a lineup of specialists to devise a health care plan of action for routine treatments.

These specialists generally include:

  • Gastroenterologists – who focus on the digestive tract
  • Hematologists – medical experts specializing in disorders of the blood
  • Immunologists – who gauge antibodies and prepare immunoglobulin therapies
  • Pulmonologists – To check for lung damage on a periodic basis

The predominant treatment for CVID is referred to as immunoglobulin therapy or IG therapy for short. An antibody such as cyclosporine A that is filtered from the blood or gamma globulin, are administered through an IV in most cases. The goal of the therapy is to help the body naturally fend off infections the patient is most at risk of acquiring.

For patients that do not respond well to these therapies, NSAIDS or antihistamines may be prescribed. In addition, antibiotics may be used to supplement the fight against bacterial infections.

Taking extra precautions with CVID

Individuals with CVID should be closely monitored year-round at different intervals by an immunologist.

These specialists suggest the following tests on a yearly basis:

  • Biopsies of lymph nodes
  • Complete blood count (CBC)
  • Lung tests
  • Thyroid tests
  • White and red blood counts

The majority of these assessments are done to check for early signs of diseases, such as cancer, lung disease, and others that CVID patients are most prone to.

When vaccines cause more harm than good

While vaccines are well-documented to help stop the spread of specific diseases, for CVID patients, this may not be the case. On rare occasions, injecting a live virus may cause the patient to contract the illness as opposed to fighting it. As a result, vaccines aren't recommended for people with CVID.

Vaccines are further used as tools for helping to diagnose CVID. For example, immunologists compare antibody serums in contrast to common vaccine strains like mumps or measles. CVID patients' antibodies fall on the lower end of the scale compared to the vaccines. This analogy gives you a better picture of how very reduced the immunoglobulin levels are in said patients.

Fight back against CVID

Even with a depressed immune system or common variable immunodeficiency, it's still possible to enjoy a good quality of life.

Balance the scale and fight chronic fatigue, recurrent infections, and other pains you once wrote off as just another part of life. Recovery and better management begin by speaking with a health care expert.

Last Reviewed:
July 19, 2017
Last Updated:
October 25, 2017