Immunology is the specialisation that focuses on treating conditions caused by various abnormalities of the immune system, specifically patients with immunodeficiency.
These conditions range from the very common to the very rare, spanning all ages and encompassing various organ systems.
When part of the immune system is either absent or not functioning properly. When the cause of this deficiency is hereditary or genetic, it is called a primary immunodeficiency disease (PIDD). There are more than 150 different kinds of disorders known as PIDD.
In the most common PIDDs, different components of the immune system are missing. This creates a pattern of repeated infections, severe infections and/or infections that are unusually hard to cure. These infections may attack the skin, respiratory system, ears, brain, spinal cord, or the urinary and gastrointestinal tracts. In some instances, PIDD are associated with disorders in other organ systems. For example, heart defects are present in some PIDDs. Other PIDDs alter facial features, some stunt normal growth, and others are connected to autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis and systemic lupus erythemetosis.
Primary Immunodeficiency Disease Symptoms & Diagnosis
Most serious PIDDs become apparent in infancy. In milder forms, it often takes a pattern of recurrent infections before PIDD is suspected. In some cases, a PIDD is not diagnosed until individuals reach their 20s and 30s.
Important signs that may indicate a PIDD include:
- Recurrent, unusual or difficult to treat infections
- Poor growth or loss of weight
- Recurrent pneumonia, ear infections or sinusitis
- Multiple courses of antibiotics or IV antibiotics necessary to clear infections
- Recurrent deep abscesses of the organs or skin
- A family history of PIDD
- Swollen lymph glands or an enlarged spleen
- Auto-immune disease
Some immunodeficiency disorders are not primary (hereditary or genetic). A secondary immune deficiency disease occurs when the immune system is compromised due to an environmental factor. Examples of these external causes include HIV, chemotherapy, severe burns or malnutrition. Book an appointment with Dr. Michael Loubser today.