What is Immune Deficiency?

Immunology experts believe when part of the immune system is either absent or functioning improperly; it can result in an immune deficiency disease. When it appears that the cause of the deficiency is hereditary or genetic, it is called a primary immunodeficiency disease or PIDD. More than 150 plus kinds of different PIDD have been identified by researchers. The body's main method for fighting off infection is the immune system; any compromise to the immune system decreases a person’s ability to fight infections.

The immune system is composed of white blood cells that are formed in the bone marrow and travel through the bloodstream and lymph nodes. These cells protect and defend the body against attacks by germs, bacteria, fungi and viruses that are considered foreign invaders by the body. When different forms of these cells are missing in the body, it creates a pattern of repeated infection, severe infections or infections that are unusually hard to cure. These infections may attack the skin, ears, urinary and gastrointestinal tracts and can affect the brain, spinal cord and respiratory system.

Serious PIDD typically appears during infancy; however, milder forms can go undiagnosed until later in life. Not all immune deficiency disorders are primary (hereditary or genetic) some occur when the immune system is impaired due to environmental factors; this is referred to as a secondary immune deficiency disease. A few examples of external causes include chemotherapy, radiation, severe burns, malnutrition and HIV. Some immune deficiency diseases are fairly common while others are exceptionally rare.

People with an immune deficiency can lead active fulfilling lives with treatment. Common treatments for primary and secondary immune deficiency diseases include prescription antibiotics and replacement therapy. It is important to note that treatment is based on a person’s diagnosis and individualized needs.