Immune System Deficiencies

Immune System Deficiencies:

Getting sick is an unfortunate part of life. Even the healthiest people still struggle through a few infections each year. It is a testament to our incredibly complex immune systems that most of us do not suffer many more infections than that. But what happens when the immune system doesn’t function like it was designed? What happens when it doesn’t have the ability to fight off all those bacteria and viruses that invade our bodies every day? This condition is known as an immune deficiency. According to the Immune Deficiency Foundation, about 250,000 people in the United States have been diagnosed with one of over 350 primary immunodeficiency diseases and many more go undiagnosed. These conditions range from life threatening diseases in newborns to more “minor” immune deficiencies that can cause older children and adults to get sinusitis, bronchitis, or pneumonia. Our physicians are experts in diagnosing and treating immune deficiencies in patients of all ages. 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 one of our specialists may help you find an answer and a way to help.

Are autoimmune diseases the same as immune deficiency?

We hear this question 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 one’s 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 (as in severe malnutrition) 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.