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Girl sticking out her tongue.

Is it just an infection?

Do you have an infection that is…?

  • Recurrent (keeps coming back)?
  • Persistent (won’t completely clear up or clears very slowly)?
  • Unusual (caused by an uncommon organism)?
  • Severe (requires hospitalization or intravenous antibiotics)?
  • Shared by family members (others in your family have or have had a similar susceptibility to infection)?

If any of these phrases describe your infection, ask your doctor to check for the possibility of a primary immunodeficiency (PI).

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What are primary immunodeficiencies?

Primary immunodeficiencies, also known as inborn errors of immunity (IEI), are a group of more than 450 rare, chronic conditions in which part of the body’s immune system is missing or does not function correctly. These conditions are caused by hereditary genetic defects and can affect anyone, regardless of age, gender, or ethnicity.

While PIs differ, they all share one common feature: disruption of the body's immune system. Because the most important function of the immune system is to protect against infection, people with PI commonly experience increased susceptibility to infection. The infections may be in the skin, sinuses, throat, ears, lungs, brain or spinal cord, or in the urinary or intestinal tracts. Increased susceptibility to infection may show up as repeated infections, infections that won't clear up, or unusually severe infections.

What are other signs of a primary immunodeficiency?

Although being more vulnerable to infection than average is the most common symptom across PIs, there are other symptoms that can indicate you have a PI. These include a swollen spleen, liver, or lymph node, inflammation of blood vessels, and autoimmune symptoms like inflammatory bowel disease.

What next?

Fortunately, with proper medical care, many people with PI live full and independent lives. If you have further questions or are diagnosed with PI and looking for support, please Ask IDF or contact us at 410-321-6647.