Immunodeficiency Disorders - types, causes and risk factors
Immunodeficiency disorders prevent your body from fighting infections and diseases. This type of disorder makes it easier for you to catch viruses and bacterial infections. Immunodeficiency disorders are either congenital or acquired. A congenital, or primary, disorder is one you were born with. An acquired, or secondary, disorder is one you get later in life. Acquired disorders are more common than congenital disorders.
Your immune system includes the following organs: spleen, tonsils, bone marrow, lymph nodes. These organs process and release lymphocytes. These are white blood cells classified as B cells and T cells. B and T cells fight invaders called antigens. B cells release antibodies specific to the disease your body detects. Certain T cells destroy foreign or atypical cells. Examples of antigens that your B and T cells might need to fight off include: bacteria, viruses, cancer cells, parasites. An immunodeficiency disorder disrupts your body’s ability to defend itself against these antigens.
What is a weak immune system? If you have a weaker immune system, you’re immunocompromisedTrusted Source. This means your body can’t fight off infections or viruses as well as people who are not immunocompromised. While a weaker immune system is typically caused by certain diseases, malnutrition, and certain genetic disorders, it can also temporarily be caused by medications such as anticancer drugs and radiation therapy. Your immune system can also be temporarily weakened by a stem cell or organ transplant.
Signs of an immunodeficiency disorder. There are hundreds of forms of immunodeficiency disorders. Each disorder has unique symptoms that can be frequent or chronic. However, there are a few warning signs that something may be going on with your immune system. Individuals with immunodeficiency disorders tend to have frequent infections — one round after another — of certain conditions, such as: pink eye, sinus infections, thrush, colds, chronic gum disease (gingivitis), pneumonia, yeast infections. Individuals with immunodeficiency disorders may also develop chronic abdominal pain, and they may even lose weight over time. If you find that you get sick easily and have a hard time shaking off viruses and other infections, your doctor might test you for an immunodeficiency disorder.
What are the different types of immunodeficiency disorders? An immune deficiency disease or disorder occurs when the immune system is not working as expected. If you’re born with a deficiency from a genetic cause, it’s called primary immunodeficiency disease. There are more than 200Trusted Source primary immunodeficiency disorders. Examples of primary immunodeficiency disorders include: common variable immunodeficiency (CVID), severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID), which is also known as alymphocytosis, chronic granulomatous disease (CGD), Secondary immunodeficiency disorders happen when an outside source like a chemical or infection weakens your body. The following can cause a secondary immunodeficiency disorder: severe burns, chemotherapy, radiation, diabetes mellitus, malnutrition. Examples of secondary immunodeficiency disorders include: AIDS, cancers of the immune system, like leukemia, immune-complex diseases, like viral hepatitis, multiple myeloma (cancer of the plasma cells, which produce antibodies).
Causes and risk factors. Primary immunodeficiency disorders are most commonly caused by inherited gene mutations. Secondary immunodeficiency disorders can be caused by a variety of things, including: chronic conditions (like diabetes or cancer), drugs, radiation therapy (this is rare), long-term hospitalization, insufficient nutrition. Risk factors. People who have a family history of primary immunodeficiency disorders have a higher risk for developing primary disorders themselves. Anything that weakens your immune system can lead to a secondary immunodeficiency disorder. For example, exposure to body fluids infected with HIV or organ removal and replacement can both be causes. Aging can also weaken your immune system. As you age, some of the organs that produce or process white blood cells shrink and become less efficient. Proteins are important for your immunity. Not enough protein in your diet can weaken your immune system. Your body also produces proteins when you sleep that help your body fight infection. For this reason, lack of sleep can reduce your immune defenses. Cancers and chemotherapy drugs can also reduce your immunity.
How are immunodeficiency disorders treated? Treating immunodeficiency disorders typically revolves around: preventing infections when possible, treating infections when they occur, strengthening parts of the immune system. Antibiotics and immunoglobulin therapy are two types of medications often used in treatment. Other antiviral drugs, like oseltamivir and acyclovir, or a drug called interferon are sometimes used for treatment of the viral infections caused by immunodeficiency disorders. If your bone marrow isn’t producing enough lymphocytes, your doctor might order a bone marrow (stem cell) transplant.
If you’ve been diagnosed with an immunodeficiency disorder, it means that your immune system is not able to fight off infections or viruses effectively. You may have been born with it, or it could have arisen later in life due to a chronic condition, such as diabetes or cancer. There are hundreds of forms of immunodeficiency disorders. According to the British Society for Immunology, approximately 6 million people worldwide live with a primary immunodeficiency disorder (i.e., they were born with it). Most doctors agree that people with immunodeficiency disorders can lead full and productive lives. Early identification and treatment of the disorder is very important.