Immunodeficiency Evaluation Q&A

What is immunodeficiency?

Immunodeficiency is a condition that occurs when the immune system malfunctions, often resulting in an increased risk or increased occurrence of infections, some of which can be quite serious. Immunodeficiency can be classified as primary (in people who are born with the condition) or secondary (in people who develop immunodeficiency after birth).

What symptoms are associated with immunodeficiency?

The symptoms of immunodeficiency can be widespread, causing effects throughout the body. Some of the most common symptoms and signs include:

  • having had multiple sinus infections or pneumonia infections within a 12-month period
  • having had more than four ear infections in a year
  • having had two or more serious infections like a bacterial blood infection
  • recurrent swelling underneath the skin
  • recurrent throat or mouth infections, often resulting in white patches in the throat

Symptoms can vary significantly from one person to another.

What happens during an immunodeficiency evaluation?

Diagnosing immunodeficiency can be problematic in some patients, and both personal and family medical histories can provide important clues and information that can aid in diagnosis. Blood tests are also used to measure the levels of special proteins called immunoglobulins which play a vital role in fighting off infections. People with immunodeficiency tend to have low levels of these proteins in their blood. Once immunodeficiency has been diagnosed, more specific tests will be ordered to determine the underlying cause of the immune system malfunction.

What treatments are available for immunodeficiency?

Treatments can vary based on the underlying cause of the immunodeficiency. Many types of immunodeficiencies can be treated with IV therapy aimed at boosting the levels of immunoglobulins in the blood. Some underlying causes of immunodeficiency may require bone marrow transplants or may respond to treatment with a special protein called gamma interferon. Your treatment will be customized for your specific needs to achieve optimal results.