What is immunoglobulin therapy?
Immunoglobulin (Ig) therapy is liquid medication that has immunoglobulins (also called antibodies). You need antibodies to fight off bacteria, viruses and other harmful cells. You may need Ig therapy:
- To give you more antibodies if you lack the amount you need.
- To help keep the antibodies from attacking your own healthy tissue. This can happen in autoimmune diseases.
It’s not always known how or why Ig therapy works. But, it helps treat various conditions. Ig therapy can often help you feel better, do more and live a healthier and longer life. Learn more about Ig and how Ig therapy helps.
Are there side effects with Ig therapy?
Most people handle Ig therapy well.
Intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIg) is given into your vein. The most common side effect of IVIg is headache. Other possible side effects are chills, fever, flushing, muscle aches or joint pains or feeling tired. You may also have nausea, vomiting or allergic-type reactions. Most side effects happen with the first dose of IVIg (or the first dose of a new brand). But some people have them with every infusion.
Here are some ways to help reduce side effects if you get them:
- Your doctor may tell you to infuse your therapy slowly over a longer period of time.
- Drink one to two liters of fluid a day for your infusion. Stay hydrated one day before, during and one day after your infusion.
- Your doctor may tell you to take medications like acetaminophen (Tylenol) and diphenhydramine (Benadryl) before your Ig therapy. Take these medications 15 minutes to an hour before you start your infusion.
- Some side effects can happen a few hours or even a few days after your finish your dose. To help, your doctor may tell you take over-the-counter medications like acetaminophen, aspirin or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen.
Subcutaneous immunoglobulin (SCIg) is given under your skin. Side effects with SCIg are usually milder. You may notice redness, swelling or itching where the needles go into your skin. You may also feel a hard lump that lasts a day or two. Most of the time, your skin gets used to the medication within a few months. So, you’re less likely to have these side effects. Some people get a mild headache, nausea, diarrhea, cough, rash, back pain or a sore throat.
Serious reactions are rare. But, someone must always be with during your infusion in case you need medical help. Call your doctor if you notice:
- A headache that doesn’t get better after your dose
- Nausea and vomiting that affects your daily life
- Diarrhea that lasts more than a day
- Urine that is darker than usual or peeing less often
- New swelling in your hands or feet
- A new rash or hives
Call 911 right away if you have any of these symptoms:
- A severe headache
- A headache and a stiff neck
- Being sensitive to light
- Chest tightness or pain
- Trouble breathing
- Severe nausea, vomiting or stomach cramps
- Hives or a severe rash all over your body
- A fever higher than 101°F
- Feeling confused or acting different than normal
What if I’m unable to receive Ig therapy?
Most people tolerate Ig therapy well. But, it may not be the best option for everyone. If you can’t use Ig therapy, other medications may help manage your condition. Talk to your doctor about your options.
If you have any question about Ig therapy, talk to your doctor.
CVS Specialty® and Coram® CVS Specialty Infusion Services (Coram) work together to dispense and administer Ig therapy to patients. To learn more about how Coram is keeping you safe and healthy at home during infusion treatments, click here.