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Common Variable Immunodeficiency (CVID)

What is common variable immunodeficiency (CVID)?

CVID is an immune system disorder marked by a low level of antibodies and a decreased responsiveness to some vaccines. This makes it hard for a child's body to fight diseases. The child then becomes sick with recurrent infections. The disease may become evident after 24 months of age, during childhood or puberty, or even later into adulthood. The symptoms of the disease are very different for each child affected, which is why it is called a variable group of disorders.

What causes CVID?

The cause of CVID is unknown. The disorder is marked by a decrease in the number of antibodies in the affected person. Antibodies are made by the body and are needed to fight infections. In some cases, more than one person in a family may be affected.

What are the symptoms of CVID?

While each child may experience symptoms differently, the following are the most common:

  • Recurrent infections that can affect the eyes, skin, ears, sinuses, and lungs (the more these infections occur, the greater the risk of scarring and permanent damage to the lungs and breathing tubes)

  • Inflammation in the joints of the knees, ankles, elbows, or wrists

  • Stomach and bowel disorders

  • Increased risk of developing some cancers, especially lymphomas

How is CVID diagnosed?

A diagnosis of CVID is usually made based on a complete medical history and physical exam. In addition, blood tests may be done to help confirm the diagnosis. A test to measure the level of antibodies in the blood is necessary to diagnose this condition. 

What is the treatment for CVID?

Your child's health care provider will consider your child's age, overall health, and medical history when advising treatment.

Treatment may include:

  • Immunoglobulin therapy. Intravenous (IV) infusions of  antibodies (immunoglobulin) may be given to help boost the child's immune system and replace the antibodies that are needed.

  • Medication. Antibiotics to prevent infection as prescribed by your child's health care provider.

  • Routine blood tests

  • Postural drainage of the lungs. This is done to help with lung infections and removal of secretions.