Q&A

 

What are immunodeficiencies?

Immunodeficiencies (or immune deficiencies) are conditions and diseases that cause the immune system to function abnormally, typically causing chronic infection and illness. Immunodeficiencies that are present at birth are called primary immunodeficiencies. Those that are acquired later are called secondary immunodeficiencies.

What symptoms do immunodeficiencies cause?

Symptoms of immunodeficiencies can vary significantly from person to person, but the most common symptoms include:

  • multiple sinus infections within a 12-month period

  • Multiple ear infections within a 12-month period

  • Two or more serious infections such as blood-borne infections

  • chronic swelling beneath the skin

  • growth delays in infancy

  • chronic throat or mouth infections that may cause white patches to form

How are immunodeficiencies diagnosed?

Because many immunodeficiencies may be inherited, Dr. Johnson will take a comprehensive family medical history in addition to a personal health history. She'll also ask about your symptoms and whether you have any other immune-related conditions like allergies or diabetes. When an immunodeficiency is suspected, a blood test can be used to measure your level of immunoglobulins (Igs), proteins in the blood that play a major role in the body's natural immune response system. People who have immunodeficiency disorders have low levels of immunoglobulins, and the Ig blood test can be used to measure these levels to confirm the presence of an immune deficiency disorder.

How are immunodeficiencies treated?

Treatments for immunodeficiencies are based on the underlying cause of the disorder and are aimed at supporting immune system health and minimizing symptoms. Some types of immunodeficiencies respond to immunoglobulin replacement therapy, an intravenous therapy that is given over time to support immune system function. Other immunodeficiency disorders may require ongoing medication, treatment with a protein called gamma interferon or bone marrow transplant procedures. Dr. Johnson will discuss these and other treatment options during your office visit. 

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