Immunodeficiency Diseases: What You Need To Know

Immunodeficiency Diseases: What You Need To Know

The body's immune system comprises lymphoid tissue, including bone marrow, Lymph nodes, spleen tissues, gastrointestinal tract, Thymus, and Tonsils. Proteins and blood cells are also part of the immune system. A weakened or missing immune response leads to Immunodeficiency disorders.

Immune System and its Disorders

The immune system protects the body from harmful substances called antigens (e.g., bacteria, viruses, toxins, cancerous cells, and foreign blood or tissues from another individual or species). Upon detection of an antigen, the immune system generates antibodies, which are proteins that neutralize the harmful agent. In addition to producing antibodies, the immune system triggers phagocytosis, a mechanism where particular white blood cells engulf and eradicate foreign invaders like bacteria. 

Immune system disorders can be classified into several categories. These include:

Autoimmunity

Immunodeficiency 

Allergy and hypersensitivity 

Immunosenescence

Autoimmune disorders may be caused by an overactive immune system attacking healthy cells in the body. In contrast, immunodeficiency disorders are caused by an underactive immune system that is unable to fight off infections. Allergies and hypersensitivities are caused by an overactive immune system that is overly sensitive to certain substances, such as pollen or dust mites. Immunosenescence is caused by an age-related decline in the immune system's ability to respond to antigens and fight infections.

Clinical Parameters of Immunodeficiency Disorders 

Immunodeficiency disorders disrupt the body's ability to defend itself against foreign matters. These diseases are of two types- 

Primary - those you are born with 

Secondary - those you acquire in the lifespan. 

Anything that depletes your immune system can cause secondary immunodeficiency disorder.

Causes 

A diminished immune system is typically due to certain illnesses, malnourishment, and specific genetic disorders. Still, it can also be a temporary effect of medications like anticancer drugs and radiation therapy. Additionally, undergoing a stem cell or organ transplant can temporarily impair your immune system. 

Sign and symptoms

Immunodeficiency disorders can present in numerous forms; however, several warning signs may indicate your immune system is compromised. Your doctor may suspect an immunodeficiency disorder if you show the following symptoms:

Recurring or persistent infections

Severe infection from non-serious bacteria or germs.

There may also look for-

Poor response to therapy for infections

Delayed or incomplete healing from illness

Specific cancers (like Kaposi sarcoma or non-Hodgkin lymphoma)

Certain infections (like some forms of pneumonia or repeated yeast infections)

Clinical Complications

Immunodeficiency disorders can vary in severity, some causing occasional illness and others potentially fatal. The symptoms rely on the type of disorder you may have. Individuals with immunodeficiency disorders may be at an increased risk for certain cancers, tumors, and infections.

Diagnosis

Your doctor may use some tests to help diagnose an immunodeficiency disorder, like-

Blood complement levels or other tests to measure substances released by the immune system

HIV test

Blood Immunoglobulin levels

Protein electrophoresis (blood or urine)

T (thymus derived) lymphocyte count

White blood cell count

Treatment

The goal of treatment is to prevent infections and treat any diseases or illnesses that arise. In the event of an infection, doctors may prescribe long-term antibiotics or antifungal drugs to prevent the infection from recurring. Those with HIV/AIDS may need multiple drugs to reduce the amount of HIV in their immune systems and bolster their immunity. Your doctor may also recommend Passive immunity (receiving antibodies produced by another person or an animal) to prevent illness after exposure to certain bacteria or viruses. In some cases, bone marrow transplants may be used to treat certain immunodeficiency disorders. 

Precautions and Prevention

Individuals with a weakened immune system should avoid contact with people with infections or contagious illnesses. They may also need to avoid those who have received live virus vaccines in the past two weeks.

  •  If you are scheduled for spleen removal surgery, you should receive vaccination against bacteria like Streptococcus pneumonia and Haemophilus influenza two weeks before the procedure. If you have not previously been vaccinated or have not caught the illness before, then you should receive vaccines for MMR, chickenpox, and DTaP as needed.
  • People who are scheduled for cancer chemotherapy should receive inactivated vaccines two weeks before beginning treatment and live vaccines four weeks before treatment initiation.
  • It is crucial to contact your healthcare provider right away if you are receiving chemotherapy or corticosteroids and experience symptoms such as:

1. fever >/= 100.5°F (38°C)

2. Cough accompanied by shortness of breath

3. Stomachache

4. Any other new symptoms

Unfortunately, no medical strategies can prevent inherited immunodeficiency disorders; however, your doctor may consider genetic counseling if you have a family history of these disorders. 

Tips to Prevent Immune Disorders

It is better to practice safer sex and avoid sharing body fluids to prevent the risk of HIV/AIDS. 

It is also advisable to consume nutritious food to help prevent acquired immunodeficiency due to malnutrition.

Getting adequate sleep is crucial for maintaining a healthy immune system, as prolonged sleep deprivation can result in various chronic conditions and weaken the body's ability to combat infections.

Bottom line

If you are diagnosed with an immunodeficiency disorder, it is an indication that your immune system is not operating optimally and your body is not able to effectively combat infections and viruses. This disorder can be congenital or acquired later in life due to a long-term condition. Nevertheless, with precise diagnosis and treatment, people living with immunodeficiency can still live normal and healthy lives. Early detection and treatment are essential to improving the quality of life for those living with this disorder.

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Mrs. Mayuri Mathur

Mrs. Mayuri Mathur is a Senior Medical Writer (Patient education and digital) and seasoned content creator with a rich tapestry of expertise spanning over ten years. With a diverse background in content creation, she brings a wealth of experience to the table, from crafting insightful medical articles to developing comprehensive patient education materials, dynamic press releases, and captivating brochures and website content. Throughout her illustrious career, she has demonstrated an exceptional knack for distilling complex medical concepts into easily understandable content, making her a trusted resource for both professionals and lay audiences alike. Her meticulous attention to detail and innate creativity have enabled her to deliver content that not only informs but also engages and inspires. Whether elucidating intricate medical procedures or crafting compelling marketing materials, her versatility and dedication shine through in every project she undertakes. Her passion for writing, coupled with her profound understanding, makes her an invaluable asset to any team or project. In a constantly evolving digital landscape, where effective communication is paramount, Mrs. Mayuri Mathur stands out as a beacon of excellence, consistently delivering top-notch content that resonates with audiences across diverse platforms.

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