Primary Immunodeficiency Diseases
Primary immunodeficiency diseases occur in people who are born without an immune system or have a system that does not function properly. They are caused by hereditary and genetic defects that can affect males and females of all races and ages, according to the Immune Deficiency Foundation. Since one of the primary functions of an immune system is to protect against infection, those with primary immunodeficiency diseases are more susceptible to infection. Not only are their infections often hard to treat, patients may suffer recurring health problems and may develop serious and debilitating illnesses.
The World Health Organization recognizes over 150 primary immunodeficiency diseases. Between 25,000-50,000 people in the U.S. have a primary immunodeficiency disorder, reports the Mayo Clinic. Primary immunodeficiency diseases are not contagious.
What Moms Can Do about Primary Immunodeficiency Diseases
Moms who notice that their child (or they themselves) has frequent, recurring, severe infections or infections that do not respond to treatment should talk to their doctors, advises the Mayo Clinic. Early diagnosis is key to preventing infections that could lead to long-term issues.
If diagnosed with primary immunodeficiency, treatment will likely involve preventing and treating infections, boosting the immune system, and treating the underlying cause of the immune problem, according to the Mayo Clinic. Sometimes primary immune disorders are linked to an illness such as an autoimmune disorder or cancer that will also need treatment. See the Mayo Clinic's website for more information on treatments.
Antibiotics are used to treat infections, but when antibiotics are not working, hospitalization may be required. Medications such as ibuprofen for pain and fevers may also be needed to treat symptoms of infection.
Treatment to boost the immune system includes:
Bone marrow transplantation permanently cures several forms of immunodeficiency. The donor is usually a close family member, because the donor must have body tissues that are a close biological match to the patient. But transplants don't always work.
There is hope that gene therapy -- replacing defective genes with genes that work correctly using a harmless virus that carries the genes into the body's cells -- will eventually cure primary immune disorders. The new genes start the production of healthy immune system enzymes and proteins. Experts now know many of the genes that cause primary immune deficiencies, but gene therapy is still experimental.
In order to prevent infections, the Mayo Clinic suggests that those with weakened immune systems take the following precautions: eat a healthy diet, practice good hygiene, avoid exposure to infections, take antibiotics, and talk to your doctor about vaccinations that you might need.
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