Immune deficiencies result from your immune system not functioning properly, causing chronic infections that can be severe and long lasting. Your body’s immune system can’t defend your body against viruses, bacteria, or a fungal infection, putting your body at risk of dangerous medical conditions and diseases.
Immune system deficiencies can happen due to having a debilitating medical condition like cancer, or they can have a genetic cause. They can also be caused by prolonged use of an immunosuppressive medication.
There are two types of immune deficiency disorders which include:
- Primary; those that are present at birth and are hereditary. There are over 100 primary immunodeficiency disorders. Primary immune deficiencies are caused by genetic mutations and are categorized under which part of the immune system is involved.
- Secondary; those that develop later as a result of a medical condition like diabetes, cancer, or HIV. They can also develop from the use of immunosuppressive medications, or from radiation therapy. Secondary immune deficiencies are much more common that primary deficiencies.
Immune deficiencies are more common in older people because the immune system is weakened and less effective. Poor nutrition in seniors is also a contributing factor which can impair the immune system. Weight loss combined with age causes the immune system to not function as well, especially if the weight lost results in a person weighing 70 to 80 percent of their normal weight. Frequent hospitalizations of seniors can also result in immune deficiencies.
People who have immune deficiencies often suffer severe respiratory infections which tend to linger. Bacterial infections can lead to more serious medical conditions like pneumonia. Eye, mouth, and digestive tract infections also occur frequently in people with immune deficiencies.
Diagnosis of an immune deficiency is by testing the blood, to determine the type of immune deficiency. Depending on the type of immune deficiency, treatment can include:
- Antibiotics to help prevent and treat any underlying infection
- Immune globulin to help increase antibody production and improve antibody function
- Stem cell transplantation for severe immune deficiency cases
Immune deficiencies can dramatically affect your ability to stay healthy, so it’s important to seek out treatment if you suspect you have immune system problems. To find out more about immune deficiencies, talk with your asthma and allergy specialist today!