Varicella Zoster Virus (VZV) Antibodies Blood Test, Quantitative, IgM
The VZV Antibodies Blood Test, IgM detects and measures antibodies in the blood to diagnose an acute VZV infection.
What is the purpose of this test?
Order this Varicella-Zoster Virus (VZV) Antibodies, IgM test to measure antibodies in the blood to diagnose an acute VZV infection. VZV, a member of the herpes virus family, causes chickenpox and shingles. Individuals exposed to VZV initially develop the highly infectious disease known as chickenpox. Chickenpox is characterized by symptoms of red, itchy sores (pox) all over the body. Once a prevalent childhood disease that infected nearly all children in the United States, cases of chickenpox have declined since the development of a vaccine in 1995. Usually, chickenpox patients experience mild symptoms, and the infection is resolved without complications. However, symptoms may be more severe for adults, pregnant women and newborns, and people with weakened immune systems (HIV/AIDS, cancer, and transplant patients).
While most people previously infected with chickenpox will develop antibodies, making them immune for the remainder of their lives, the virus remains inactive in the nerve tissue. However, the virus may reactivate later in life due to a weakened immune system, causing shingles. You can be infected with shingles more than once, though rare, unlike chickenpox. After VZV is reactivated, individuals develop the disease known as shingles. Shingles is a disease that targets only individuals with a history of chickenpox infection. This disease causes a painful, burning rash on one side of the body but may spread to other locations. Researchers estimate that approximately one-third of Americans will get shingles at some point in their lifetime, most often after age 50. The average recovery time for shingles is three to five weeks, but it sometimes causes long-term pain and other health problems.
What is the difference between VZV IgM and IgG antibody tests?
IgM antibodies are the first antibodies the immune system produces to combat a VZV infection. They become detectable in most infected individuals within a week or two after the initial exposure. After that, IgM antibody production spike for a short period and then decline. Eventually, the IgM antibody levels will fall below detectable ranges. However, additional IgM may be produced when latent VZV is reactivated.
IgG antibody testing is another antibody test that may be used to diagnose VZV and establish immunity. The body produces IgG antibodies several weeks after the initial VZV infection, providing long-term protection. IgG levels increase during the active infection, stabilize as the VZV infection resolves, and the virus becomes inactive.
When should I order a Varicella-Zoster Virus (VZV) Antibodies Blood Test, IgM?
Individuals may order this test to confirm if they have a current or recent case of chickenpox or shingles. This test is beneficial if you have atypical or severe symptoms and your healthcare provider wants to distinguish between a VZV infection and another cause. Follow up with your healthcare provider if you have significant concerns or questions about your result. Signs or symptoms associated with chickenpox and shingles include:
- Itchy, red, blistering pox all over the body (Chickenpox)
- Painful, red, blistering rash on one side of the body (Shingles)
- Sore throat
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