Intravenous Immunoglobulins (IVIGs) and Lupus
Intravenous immunoglobulins or IVIGs are proteins in the blood plasma that act as antibodies. The immunoglobulins your doctor will give you are pooled from blood donors who have been screened for blood-borne diseases. They have also gone through a cleaning process to ensure they are not contaminated.
Immunoglobulins can be used to treat organ involvement with lupus or vasculitis (inflammation of blood vessels). IVIGs are always infused in an outpatient infusion center, so you won’t have to fill a prescription at your local pharmacy or remember to take the medication at home. But it is important to understand what to expect from the procedure in order to make the most of it and minimize side effects. Infusions may last from a few hours to all day, depending on your individual response.
Although the mechanism by which these products help is not well-understood, it is thought that they reduce antibody production or promote the clearance of immune complexes from the body.
Although an IVIG, like any drug, can cause potentially dangerous side effects, it doesn’t suppress the immune system the way immunosuppressives and corticosteroids do. Thus, the risk of serious infections with these drugs is less.
Possible Side Effects
These include back pain, fast heartbeat, headaches, joint and muscle pain, nausea and vomiting.
- Dermatologic: rash, mild skin reaction at injection site
- Gastrointestinal: abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting
- Musculoskeletal: chest, back or hip pain; muscle pain; joint pain
- Neurologic: anxiety, chills, dizziness, fever, headache
- Other: chest tightness, difficulty breathing, burning sensation in the head
IVIGs can cause severe headaches that can get worse for a day or two after the infusion until they start to subside. Sometimes medications can minimize IVIG-related headaches. If you experience a headache following the procedure, ask your doctor to prescribe something for pain. Also, let your doctor or nurse know immediately if you experience any signs of an allergic reaction such as itching, hives, swelling of the eyes and face, difficulty breathing, or wheezing.