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Causes of High IgA Levels

Written by Biljana Novkovic, PhD | Last updated:
Medically reviewed by
Puya Yazdi, MD | Written by Biljana Novkovic, PhD | Last updated:

Studies suggest that high IgA can be a marker of chronic infections and low-grade inflammation. Read on to learn about the causes of high IgA levels and how they may impact health.

What Do High IgA Levels Mean?

A Signal of Chronic Inflammation/Infection

High IgA can indicate chronic inflammation or an infection.

Most labs consider values above 400 mg/dL in adults high. The upper limit varies by age and is lower in children and adolescents.

IgA is also elevated in people with:

  • Liver damage [1, 2]
  • IBD (can also be decreased) [3]
  • After heart attacks [4]
  • Diabetes and diabetic complications (mixed results — elderly diabetics may have lower levels) [5, 6]
  • Fatty liver, liver damage and inflammation (NASH) [1]
  • Hepatitis B and liver injury [2]
  • Obesity [7]
  • Metabolic syndrome (a term used to describe a group of conditions including high blood sugar levels, high blood pressure, high triglycerides, low HDL cholesterol, and excess fat around the stomach) [7]
  • Alcoholism [7, 8]
  • IgA nephropathy or Berger’s disease [9]
  • Multiple myeloma (cancer of a specific type of white blood cells called plasma cells) [10]

There are no symptoms associated with high IgA levels. Instead, people with high IgA may only show symptoms from infections or inflammatory disorders. Your doctor will discuss your results with you. He or she may run additional tests to pinpoint the underlying cause of your high levels.

High IgA usually points to chronic infections or inflammation, though many disorders can raise its levels. High IgA does not cause symptoms. People show symptoms from their underlying health problem.

IgA Vasculitis & Nephropathy

IgA vasculitis occurs when IgA accumulates in the blood vessels; IgA nephropathy occurs when IgA accumulates in the kidneys.

In IgA vasculitis, IgA deposits in small blood vessels where it causes inflammation. Common symptoms are skin rash, joint pain, and swelling.

IgA vasculitis is more common among children, where the disease usually resolves within several weeks and requires no treatment. In adults, it can be more complicated and longer-lasting, with more severe kidney disease [11].

In IgA nephropathy, IgA complexes are deposited in kidneys. About 20 to 50% of patients develop progressive kidney failure [12].

IgA vasculitis is when IgA builds up in blood vessels, while IgA nephropathy is when it builds up in the kidneys. Both can have serious health consequences.

Takeaway

High IgA usually points to chronic infections or inflammation, though diverse disorders can raise its levels. In adults, values above 300 mg/dL are considered high by most labs. High levels do not cause any symptoms. Symptoms depend on the underlying cause and health status, which should be evaluated by a physician.

Learn More

About the Author

Biljana Novkovic

PhD
Biljana received her PhD from Hokkaido University.
Before joining SelfHacked, she was a research scientist with extensive field and laboratory experience. She spent 4 years reviewing the scientific literature on supplements, lab tests and other areas of health sciences. She is passionate about releasing the most accurate science and health information available on topics, and she's meticulous when writing and reviewing articles to make sure the science is sound. She believes that SelfHacked has the best science that is also layperson-friendly on the web.

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