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Gammaglobulin is a type of protein found in the blood. When gammaglobulins are extracted from the blood of many people and combined, they can be used to prevent or treat infections.
This medicine is used to treat or prevent diseases that occur when the body's own immune system is not effective against the disease. When disease-causing agents enter the body, they normally trigger the production of antibodies, proteins that circulate in the blood and help fight the disease. Gammaglobulin contains some of these antibodies. When gammaglobulins are taken from the blood of people who have recovered from diseases such as chickenpox or hepatitis, they can be given to other people to make them temporarily immune to those diseases. With hepatitis, for example, this is done when someone who has not been vaccinated against hepatitis is exposed to the disease.
Gammaglobulin, also known as immunoglobulin, immune serum globulin or serum therapy, is injected either into a vein or into a muscle. When injected into a vein, it produces results more quickly than when injected into a muscle.
Doses are different for different people and depend on the person's body weight and the condition for which he or she is being treated.
Anyone who has had unusual reactions to gammaglobulin in the past should let his or her physician know before taking the drugs again. The physician should also be told about any allergies to foods, dyes, preservatives, or other substances.
People who have certain medical conditions may have problems if they take gammaglobulins. For example:
- Gammaglobulins may worsen heart problems or deficiencies of immunoglobin A (IgA, a type of antibody)
- Certain patients with low levels of gammaglobulins in the blood (conditions called agammaglobulinemia and hypogammaglobulinemia) may be more likely to have side effects when they take gammaglobulin.
Minor side effects such as headache, backache, joint or muscle pain, and a general feeling of illness usually go away as the body adjusts to this medicine. These problems do not need medical attention unless they continue.
Other side effects, such as breathing problems or a fast or pounding heartbeat, should be brought to a physician's attention as soon as possible.
Anyone who shows the following signs of overdose should check with a physician immediately:
- unusual tiredness or weakness
- tightness in the chest
- red face
Hepatitis — Inflammation of the liver caused by a virus, chemical or drugs. There are several different types of hepatitis, including the most common forms: hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C.
Immune system — The body's natural defenses against disease and infection.
Inflammation — Pain, redness, swelling, and heat that usually develop in response to injury or illness.
Anyone who takes gammaglobulin should let the physician know all other medicines he or she is taking and should ask whether interactions with gammaglobulin could interfere with treatment.
Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.