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Immunodeficiency disorders occur when the body's immune response is reduced or absent.
See also: Autoimmune disorders
Causes, incidence, and risk factors
The symptoms depend on the disorder.
Signs and tests
Your doctor might think you have an immunodeficiency disorder if you have:
Other signs include:
- Poor response to treatment for infections
- Delayed or incomplete recovery from illness
- Certain types of cancers (such as Kaposi's sarcoma or non-Hodgkin's lymphoma)
- Certain infections (including some forms of pneumonia or repeated yeast infections)
Tests used to help diagnose an immunodeficiency disorder may include:
The goal of treatment is to prevent infections and treat any disease and infections that do develop.
If you have a weakened immune system, you should avoid contact with persons who have infections or contagious disorders. You may have to avoid people who have been vaccinated with live virus vaccines within the past 2 weeks.
If you develop an infection, your doctor will treat you aggressively. This may involve long-term use of antibiotic or antifungal medications and preventive (prophylactic) treatments.
Interferon is used to treat viral infections and some types of cancer. It is an immunostimulant drug, a medicine that makes the immune system work better.
Persons with HIV or AIDS may take combinations of drugs to reduce the amount of HIV in their immune systems and improve their immunity.
Patients who are going to have a planned splenectomy should be vaccinated 2 weeks before the surgery against bacteria such as Streptococcus pneumonia and Hemophilus influenzae.
Bone marrow transplants may be used to treat certain immunodeficiency conditions.
Passive immunity (receiving antibodies produced by another person or animal) may sometimes be recommended to prevent illness after you have been exposed to bacteria or other germs.
Patients with hypogammaglobulinemia are treated with immunoglobulin infusions through a vein. These infusions raise blood immunoglobulin levels ge and protect against many infections.
Some immunodeficiency disorders are mild and cause illness from time to time. Others are severe and may be fatal. Immunosuppression caused by medications often goes away once the medication is stopped.
- Frequent or persistent illness
- Increased risk for certain cancers or tumors
- Increased risk for infection
Calling your health care provider
Call your health care provider immediately if you are on chemotherapy or corticosteroids (such as prednisone, Medrol, or Decadron) and you develop:
- A fever higher than 100.5 degrees Fahrenheit
- A cough with shortness of breath
- Stomach pain
- Other new symptoms
Go to the emergency room if you have a stiff neck and headache with the fever.
Contact your health care provider if you have repeated yeast infections or oral thrush.
There is no known way to prevent congenital immunodeficiency disorders. If you have a family history of immunodeficiency disorders, you might want to have genetic counseling.
Practicing safe sex and avoiding the sharing of body fluids may help prevent HIV infection and AIDS. Good nutrition may prevent acquired immunodeficiency caused by malnutrition.
Ballow M. Primary immunodeficiency diseases. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 258.
Morimoto Y. Immunodeficiency overview. Prim Care. 2008;35:159-173.
- Last Reviewed on 05/06/2012
- David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine; Stuart I. Henochowicz, MD, FACP, Associate Clinical Professor of Medicine, Division of Allergy, Immunology, and Rheumatology, Georgetown University Medical School. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.
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This page was last updated: September 18, 2013