What is polyclonal gammopathy?
Polyclonal gammopathy is when cells in your blood make too much of certain immune proteins (immunoglobulins). These proteins, also known as antibodies, help your body fight infections and illnesses.
How does polyclonal gammopathy affect me?
If you have polyclonal gammopathy, your immune system is activated. This happens when an infection or autoimmune disease tells your immune system to keep making antibodies.
Polyclonal gammopathy can develop if you have cancer or autoimmune conditions. The condition can also happen in people with liver disease.
What is the difference between polyclonal gammopathy and monoclonal gammopathy?
White blood cells, known as B cells and plasma cells, make immunoglobulins. In polyclonal gammopathy, both B cells and plasma cells produce too many antibodies.
In monoclonal gammopathy, only plasma cells make too much of an antibody called M protein. This condition is more likely to happen if you have cancer such as multiple myeloma. But some people develop monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS). If you have MGUS, your healthcare provider will monitor you regularly to see if cancer develops.
Does polyclonal gammopathy have other names?
Polyclonal gammopathy is also known as:
- Polyclonal disease.
Symptoms and Causes
What causes polyclonal gammopathy?
Experts are still studying what causes polyclonal gammopathy. But it’s more common in people with infections, autoimmune diseases or blood cancers. Taking certain medications for other conditions can also increase your risk of developing polyclonal gammopathy.
What are the symptoms of polyclonal gammopathy?
You usually don’t experience symptoms of polyclonal gammopathy. You may have symptoms of the condition that’s causing polyclonal gammopathy.
Is polyclonal gammopathy viral or bacterial?
Polyclonal gammopathy isn’t viral or bacterial. The condition is an immune system response. But an underlying viral or bacterial infection can cause polyclonal gammopathy to develop.
Diagnosis and Tests
How is polyclonal gammopathy diagnosed?
Healthcare providers use a blood test to diagnose polyclonal gammopathy. This test is called serum protein electrophoresis (SPEP).
If you’ve been diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder, infection, liver disease or cancer — or if your healthcare provider suspects you have one of these conditions — they may test you for polyclonal gammopathy to learn more about how your immune system is responding.
How does SPEP help diagnose polyclonal gammopathy?
Healthcare providers draw a sample of your blood. They use SPEP to separate the proteins and check blood protein levels.
These levels give your healthcare provider information about your immune system’s health, including whether you have liver disease, which may cause polyclonal gammopathy. They also show whether you have an infection or if cancer is present.
What other tests are used to diagnose polyclonal gammopathy?
Your healthcare provider may test your cerebrospinal fluid if they suspect a central nervous system infection like meningitis. These infections can cause polyclonal gammopathy.
Management and Treatment
How is polyclonal gammopathy treated?
Polyclonal gammopathy is an immune system response. There isn’t a treatment for this condition. Your healthcare provider will treat the condition causing the immune response.
During treatment, your healthcare provider checks your immunoglobulin levels to see if polyclonal gammopathy has resolved.
How can I prevent polyclonal gammopathy?
Researchers aren’t aware of any way to prevent polyclonal gammopathy.
How do I know if I’m at risk for developing polyclonal gammopathy?
Certain conditions put you at higher risk for developing polyclonal gammopathy, including:
- Autoimmune conditions such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis or Sjogren’s syndrome.
- Blood disorders (including sickle cell anemia).
- Blood cancers such as leukemia and lymphoma.
- Cancer (kidney cancer, liver cancer, lung cancer and ovarian cancer).
- Infections such as HIV, malaria, mononucleosis, pneumonia and tuberculosis.
- Liver disease (including autoimmune hepatitis, cirrhosis and viral hepatitis).
If you have one of these conditions, or if you had asbestos exposure, talk with your healthcare provider. They may decide to test you for polyclonal gammopathy if your symptoms worsen.
Outlook / Prognosis
What can I expect if I have polyclonal gammopathy?
You may be at an increased risk of infections and anemia if you have polyclonal gammopathy. Treating the condition causing polyclonal gammopathy can help resolve it and the risks associated with it.
Can you get polyclonal gammopathy more than once?
Yes, you can get polyclonal gammopathy more than once.
How can I take care of myself if I have polyclonal gammopathy?
Follow your healthcare provider’s instructions to reduce your risk of infection.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Polyclonal gammopathy, also called hypergammaglobulinemia, happens when your immune system makes too many immunoglobulins (antibodies). These extra antibodies show that your immune system is working too hard. Your healthcare provider treats the condition that’s causing your immune system to produce too many antibodies.
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