Health Encyclopedia

Common Variable Immunodeficiency in Children

What is common variable immunodeficiency in children?

Common variable immunodeficiency (CVID) is an immunodeficiency problem that causes the child to have a low level of antibodies and a decreased responsiveness to some vaccines. This makes it difficult for the child’s body to fight diseases. The child then becomes sick with infections that keep coming back. The disease may become obvious 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. This is why it is called a variable group of disorders.

What causes CVID in children?

The cause of CVID is unknown. The disorder causes a decrease in the number of immunoglobulins (antibodies) in the child who has it. Immunoglobulins are made by the body and are necessary to fight infections. In some cases, more than one person in a family may be affected.

Who is at risk for CVID?

The only known risk factor for CVID is a family history of the problem.

What are the symptoms of CVID in children?

These are the most common symptoms of CVID. However, each child may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

  • Infections that keep coming back in the eyes, skin, ears, sinuses, and lungs (the more these infections happen, 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 problems
  • Increased risk of developing some cancers, especially lymphomas

How is CVID in children diagnosed?

A diagnosis of CVID is usually made based on a complete medical history and physical exam. In addition, multiple blood tests may be ordered to help confirm the diagnosis. Testing for low serum IgG concentrations is key to diagnose this health problem.

How is CVID in children treated?

Your child’s health care provider will figure out the best treatment for your child based on:

  • How old your child is
  • His or her overall health and medical history
  • How sick he or she is
  • How well your child can handle specific medications, procedures, or therapies
  • How long the condition is expected to last
  • Your opinion or preference

The symptoms of CVID sometimes look like other conditions or medical problems. Always see your child’s health care provider for a diagnosis.

 Treatment may include:

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

What are the complications of CVID in children?

Infections, and the results of those infections, are the greatest complication of CVID. With proper treatment, the number and severity of infections should be reduced. Adults with CVID have an increased risk of developing cancer.

Living with CVID in children

CVID is a lifelong health problem that can lead to a reduced ability to fight infections. The improvement of current therapies has reduced the number and severity of infections. However, it is important that you help your child avoid infections and wash their hands often with soap and water. Include your health care provider in the discussion about school attendance and after-school activities. Most children are able to participate in all activities but may need to avoid some activities when the risk for infection is higher. It is also important that you work closely with a specialist who is familiar with CVID and the newest trends in treatment.

When should I call my child’s healthcare provider?

If your child’s symptoms get worse or if your child has new symptoms, call his or her healthcare provider.

Key points about CVID in children

  • CVID is an immunodeficiency problem that causes the child to have a low level of antibodies and a decreased responsiveness to some vaccines, making it difficult for the child's body to fight diseases
  • Children with CVID experience infections that keep coming back that can affect the eyes, skin, ears, sinuses, lungs, joints, and GI tract
  • Treatment includes immunoglobulin therapy, medicines, routine blood tests, and postural drainage of the lungs
  • Avoiding infections and frequent hand washing are important in preventing infections

Next steps

Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your child’s health care provider:
  • Before your visit, write down questions you want answered.
  • At the visit, write down the names of new medicines, treatments, or tests, and any new instructions your provider gives you for your child.
  • If your child has a follow-up appointment, write down the date, time, and purpose for that visit.
  • Know how you can contact your child’s provider after office hours. This is important if your child becomes ill and you have questions or need advice.

Medical Reviewers:

  • Foster, Sara, RN, MPH
  • Freeborn, Donna, PhD, CNM, FNP