Immune System Disorders

Immune system disorders develop when the body’s immune system stops functioning as expected. The immune system is what fights off infections and diseases that might otherwise cripple the body. The immune system is a complex composition of cells, tissues, organs and proteins that all primarily work at fighting pathogens, the disease-causing micro-organisms. Immune system disorders are in two types: autoimmune disorders and immune deficiency disorders.  Autoimmune disorders occur when the immune system mistakenly attacks body cells and tissues, confusing them for foreign bodies. These types of disorders often lead to destruction of vital body tissues, impairment of organ functionality and abnormal growth of particular organs. Immune deficiency disorders occur when the body’s ability to fight off infections is compromised. In this case, one’s immunity is either very low or completely absent. Immune deficiency can be primary or secondary.

Primary immune deficiency disorders are caused by genetic defects. Patients inherit them from their parents right from conception. Secondary immune deficiency disorders are caused by external factors such as HIV infection, diabetes, malnutrition, leukemia, chemotherapy and radiation therapy. These disorders are quite common among terminally and critically ill patients as well as the elderly whose immune systems get weaker by the day. Patients with immune deficiency disorders suffer recurrent infections.

Unfortunately for primary immune deficiency disorders, the conditions are permanent. However, they can be treated using bone marrow or cord blood transplant (BMT). In BMT, the defective cells are replaced with healthy cells from either of three sources: bone marrow, peripheral circulating blood or blood collected from the umbilical cord after child birth. Some of these disorders include selective immunoglobulin deficiency, common variable immune deficiency and X-linked agammaglobulinemia.  In secondary immune deficiency disorders, the condition disappears when the underlying factor responsible for repressing immune system cells is eliminated. This explains why patients undergoing chemotherapy are very weak but become stronger and healthy once they are taken off the treatment.

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