The immune system protects the body from antigens that include bacteria, toxins, cancer cells, viruses, and foreign blood or tissues. However, sometimes the immune system is weakened and is unable to protect the body effectively. This is referred to as immunodeficiency. Immunodeficiency includes more than 400 rare, chronic disorders in which part of the body’s immune system is missing or functions improperly.
While not contagious, immunodeficiency is caused by hereditary or genetic defects. Some symptoms of immunodeficiency are:
- Frequent infections or infections that won’t clear up in the skin, the sinuses, the throat, the ears, the lungs, the brain or spinal cord, and urinary or intestinal tracts
- An unusual infection caused by an uncommon organism
- If a family member has had a similar recurring infection
In order to diagnose immunodeficiency, the standard screening tests measure immunoglobulin levels (IgG, IgA and IgM levels) in the blood serum and are then compared to similarly aged people without immunodeficiency.
Through treatment, many patients with immunodeficiency are able to live healthy and independent lives. If you have recently been diagnosed with immunodeficiency, talk to your healthcare provider about a treatment plan.