Immune System Deficiencies

About Immune System Deficiencies

Even healthy people have experienced common infections such as colds, the flu, or sinus and ear infections. Even with more serious infections, such as pneumonia, we expect our body’s immune system, with the help of proper medical treatment, to overcome the infection. The human body can usually rid itself of the infection-causing germs, and work to defend against future infections.

It is amazing we all don’t get sick more often. There are some people who can’t seem to get well and stay well and have cold after cold or one long infection. Their immune systems don’t function from birth or start to lose normal function as they age. What happens when your immune system fails you and can’t fight off all the bacteria and viruses it is exposed to daily? According to the Immune Deficiency Foundation about 250,000 people in the US have been diagnosed with one of over 350 primary immunodeficiency diseases and many more go undiagnosed. The illnesses range from life threatening diseases in newborns to more “minor” immune deficiencies. Our physician is an expert in diagnosing immune deficiencies that can cause older kids and adults to get sinusitis, bronchitis, or pneumonia. While there is no “cure” for most immune deficiencies, there are treatments available that can help the parts of the immune system that do function normally and replace the parts that do not. This can result in significantly fewer infections and a better quality of life. So, if you’ve always wondered why you seem to get sick more than other people, a visit with our specialist may help you find an answer and a way to help.

You should be suspicious if you have an infection that is:

  • Severe – requires hospitalization or intravenous antibiotics
  • Persistent – wonʼt completely clear up or clears very slowly
  • Unusual – caused by an uncommon organism
  • Recurrent – keeps coming back or if it
  • Condition runs in the family – others in your family have had a similar susceptibility to infection

Fortunately, with proper medical care, many patients live full and independent lives.

Are autoimmune diseases the same as immune deficiency?

This question comes up a lot and the answer is no. Autoimmune diseases, like lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, occur when the immune system begins attacking normal body proteins. Autoimmune disease is managed by specialists called rheumatologists. Immune deficiency is when the body lacks the ability to fight off infections.

Is there a way to “boost” my immune system?

Unfortunately, no. The structure and function of the immune system is based on specific genes in your DNA. As long as there are no inherited mutations in these genes, the immune system will function normally unless there is an extreme lack of proteins available to make the components of the immune system or there is damage to immune cells caused by outside forces (chemotherapy, HIV, etc.). So, all the claims that “taking this pill will boost your immune system” are completely unproven.

If you are concerned that you might have a problem with your immune system, schedule an appointment with our specialist today.

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