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What Is Gamma Globulin?

Gamma globulin (otherwise known as immunoglobulin) is part of the body’s natural defense system. It is a kind of blood plasma protein, and along with the antibodies, help defeat disease-causing organisms.

Today, medical science has found a way to extract gamma globulin and use it as a form of injections. Gamma globulin injections are often used to temporarily strengthen the immune system, usually when somebody has undergone a contagious kind of disease like measles or Hepatitis A (at least, until those conditions were controlled by vaccines). It is also used for people who have a chronically weak immune system, such as those who suffer from immunological thrombocytopenia purpura. Here, antibodies destroy platelets, and prevent blood clotting. The gamma globulin injection—for reasons heavily debated in medical journals—fights the malfunctioning antibodies.

Doctors also test the body for gamma globulin counts. A high count, called hypergammaglobulinemia, indicates the presence of a disease or infection. The test may also look for a high number of abnormal gamma globulin (medically called paraproteins) which means the immune system is not working properly.

Another condition of “abnormal” gamma globulin activity is called gammopathy. Gammopathy is not, in and of itself, life-threatening. However, due to the important role of gamma globulins in the immune system, it makes the person more vulnerable to other diseases.

Doctors may also conduct further tests, and check for the presence of other immune system deficiencies. In fact, gammopathy is one symptom of AIDS, or a red flag for cancer or nerve damage. They may often take a very aggressive treatment strategy in order to control the disease or boost the immune system.

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