Do you know anyone with multiple allergies? For many people this is a daily war that they must wage against their environment, food, and their own bodies. I know how exhausting the battle can be, because I have experienced an array of allergy symptoms over the years.
Allergies and the Immune System
Sometimes, we get sick, and just don’t seem to get better. Leading experts in immunology say this is the result of our immune system, which is made up of white blood cells, is absent or malfunctioning in some way.
White blood cells are created in the bone marrow and travel through our bloodstream and lymph nodes. Their role is to protect our bodies from “foreign” invaders that can cause illnesses, like germs, fungi and bacteria. Antibodies are the proteins the body makes in response to infections resulting from these invaders.
Those who study the immune system and allergens (what triggers an allergic reaction) are called immunologists or allergists. These medical experts are highly trained and must study for many years before they are certified as an immunologist.
Primary Immunodeficiency Diseases (PIDD)
Experts believe there are more than 300 types of PIDD, and are characterized by repeated infections, hard to treat or cure infections, or severe infections. These infections can attack various parts of the body such as urinary or gastrointestinal tracts, the skin, respiratory system, ears, brain or spinal cord.
Typically, serious PIDDs are apparent as early as infancy, but they can present themselves at any age. Milder forms are usually detected only after repeated hard to treat infections occur.
Signs of PIDD
If you suspect you have an immunodeficiency disease, you should consult your doctor and request tests. Some signs include poor growth, or unexplained weight loss, recurrent pneumonia, ear infections or sinusitis. Others are deep, recurrent abscesses of the skin or organs, a family history of PIDD, autoimmune disease, or swollen lymph glands or enlarged spleen.
Secondary immunodeficiency disorders are not genetic or hereditary (primary) and occurs due environmental or other external factor such as infections like HIV, medications, malnutrition or severe burns.
There Is Hope
Research has made great advancements in the treatment of immunodeficiency disorders. This has greatly enhanced the quality of life for those living with complex medical conditions. The targeting of specific immunodeficiencies includes transplantation of healthy cells from bone marrow, stem cells and the thymus, immunoglobin replacement and preventative antibiotics.
It is possible to live with immunodeficiency diseases and through proper management of symptoms, it is possible to live well. If you or your child have been experiencing symptoms that cause you to suspect that there may be a compromised immune system, there are tests and experts available to help you get diagnosed and on your way to treatment options.
There is much yet to discover about how our immune systems work and how we can control the responses that are triggered by allergens. Allergists are making great strides in the study and treatment of these debilitating disorders.