The environment in which we live is full of germs. These can be bacteria, viruses or fungi.
It is important to note that not all of these germs are harmful to humans. Certain germs are necessary for humans and can also defend against harmful germs that cause diseases. However, many of these germs are harmful to humans and can cause infections.
Most people will recover from many of these infections without the need for additional medications. Some people however, experience more significant infections or recurrent infections that do require medical attention. Usually, these infections respond promptly to anti-infective medications such as antibiotics.
Infections can be different for each person and can be more or less severe. It depends on things like age, history of exposure, and lifestyle choices, such as being around tobacco smoke. Some infectious agents are quite common and easily passed from person to person such as the common cold. Other infectious agents are rare or not easily transferred between individuals and infections associated with these germs are uncommon.
Frequent or severe infections may mean a problem with the immune system, like immune deficiency. An allergist/immunologist undergoes training to evaluate and treat patients with these infection and immunity issues.
A genetic or hereditary immune deficiency is considered a primary immune deficiency. A secondary immune deficiency occurs when someone's immune system weakens due to factors such as medications, infections, chemicals, or physical abnormalities.
When Should One Think About Immune Deficiency?
People with weak immune systems get common infections like ear, sinus, and lung infections, just like everyone else. Certain, more rare types of immune deficiency can cause unusual skin infections, joint infections, and meningitis.
People with weak immune systems get sick more often and have more severe infections. They also have more complications and need stronger treatments, like taking antibiotics multiple times. Immune problems can happen at any age, but severe ones are usually noticed in early childhood. An immunology specialist can determine if someone's infection problems require more investigation for potential immune deficiency.
How Are Immune Deficiencies Diagnosed and Treated?
There are four main branches to the immune system. Each branch plays an important role in the defense against infection and combating infections when present. An allergist/immunologist will take a careful history, perform a physical examination and may very well request specialized blood tests be performed to evaluate the immune system.
Once an allergy/immunology specialist diagnoses an immune deficiency, they will start treatment specific for that particular condition. The treatment would involve addressing any existing infection. It would also involve implementing specific interventions and therapies. These interventions and therapies aim to reduce infections, hasten recovery, and enhance the immune system.