You should be suspicious if you have an infection that is…
If any of these words describe your infection, the Immune Deficiency Foundation (IDF) recommends that you ask your physician to check for the possibility of a primary immunodeficiency (PI). While not contagious, these diseases are caused by genetic defects and can affect anyone, regardless of age or sex. People with PI are more susceptible to infections and health problems that lead to serious and debilitating diseases. It is critical to get an early diagnosis and proper medical care.
Nearly everyone has suffered from colds, the flu, or sinus and ear infections. Just as many have been affected by cuts, scrapes and abrasions that become infected. Even in the case of more severe infections – such as pneumonia – we expect the cough and congestion to ‘run its course’, aided by prescription antibiotics, over-the-counter symptom remedies, and our body’s own immune system.
Recovery times vary, but the human body can usually rid itself of the infection-causing germs, and work to defend against future “bugs” and viruses. There are, however, instances in which the body cannot recover, and some of these apply to individuals with PI.
PI occurs in persons born with an immune system that is either absent or hampered in its ability to function. The World Health Organization recognizes 185 primary immunodeficiency diseases – some are relatively common, others are quite rare. Some affect a single cell within the immune system; others may affect one or more components of the system.
And while the diseases may differ, they all share one common feature: each results from a defect in one of the functions of the body’s normal immune system. Because one of the most important functions of the normal immune system is to protect us against infection, patients with PI commonly have an increased susceptibility to infection.
The infections may be in the skin, the sinuses, the throat, the ears, the lungs, the brain or spinal cord, or in the urinary or intestinal tracts, and the increased vulnerability to infection may include repeated infections, infections that won’t clear up or unusually severe infections. People with PI live their entire lives more susceptible to infections–enduring recurrent health problems and often developing serious and debilitating illnesses. Fortunately, with proper medical care, many patients live full and independent lives.
Click here to read more about specific types of PI. If you have further questions, please contact IDF through Ask IDF or call 800-296-4433.