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Immune Deficiency

Immune deficiencies, or immunodeficiencies, impair the immune system’s ability to adequately defend your body against foreign cells (pathogens) or abnormal cells (such as cancer cells). As a result, individuals with immune deficiencies are at an increased risk to develop recurring infections, unusual infections, or cancers. Immune deficiencies can be categorized as primary immunodeficiency diseases (PIDs) or secondary immunodeficiency diseases (SIDs). A PID is an immune disorder with a genetic component and is generally very rare. A SID is an immune disorder that develops from outside factors rather than genetics.

Symptoms of Immunodeficiency

Immune deficiencies can differ widely due to the varieties in cell types and proteins the immune system needs to function properly. Any of the affected components of the immune system can be missing, reduced in number, or abnormal and malfunctioning. Because of this, there is no specific set of symptoms that characterize an immune deficiency. Rather, there are general signs that, if recurring, may indicate an immune deficiency. Signs you may have an immune deficiency include:

  • Recurring, long-lasting, severe infections and difficulty completely recovering from an infection.
  • Increased risk of contracting a rare infection or an infection from an organism that typically does not cause infection.
  • Recurring, seemingly random, bouts of fevers and chills.
  • Abdominal pain, loss of appetite, and/or weight loss.
  • Failure to thrive in infants and young children.

Causes of Immunodeficiency

Primary immunodeficiencies (PIDs) are hereditary or genetic disorders caused by gene mutations. PIDs can be classified by which part of the immune system is affected:

  • Humoral immunity, which involves a type of white blood cell that produces immunoglobulins (antibodies); humoral immunity is the most common form of PID
  • Cellular immunity, which involves a type of white blood cell that helps identify and destroy foreign or abnormal cells in the body
  • Phagocytes (cells that ingest and kill microorganisms)
  • Complement proteins (proteins that assist immune cells in killing bacteria and identifying foreign cells to destroy)

Secondary immunodeficiencies (SIDs) are disorders that can result from a variety of outside factors, such as:

  • Chronic and/or serious disorders such as diabetes, HIV (which can result in AIDS), or cancer
  • Long-term use of certain drugs, including immunosuppressant drugs (corticosteroids)
  • Severe undernutrition (under 70-80% of the recommended weight)
  • Rarely, radiation therapy

Diagnosis and Treatment of Immunodeficiencies

At Frontier Allergy Asthma and Immunology, our physician has extensive knowledge and experience in immunology. During your visit, they will discuss your symptoms, ask about family history, and perform tests that can help narrow down the cause of your recurring symptoms. Common tests your doctor may recommend include blood tests, skin tests, biopsies, and sometimes genetic testing. Once a diagnosis is made, your doctor will work with you to create a personalized plan of care specific to your needs. Treatment for immune deficiency disease typically involves managing and preventing infections, improving immune system function, and (in some cases) targeting the source of the immune system issue.

Next steps

If you are interested in further discussion about your specific needs, Dr. Reshamwala is happy to see you and answer any questions you may have. Please call (512) 535-2655 or email to schedule an appointment today! Book an appointment

Written by: Dr. Neha Reshamwala
NPI number: 1780874578
Page last reviewed: 03/20/21

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