What Does Immunocompromisation Mean?
An immunocompromised individual is a person who has a weakened immune system, making them more likely to catch an infection compared to someone with a well-functioning immune system.
The condition may be hereditary, result from underlying health conditions, or arise from the use of certain medications and medical treatments. A compromised or weakened immune system is unable to protect against viruses, bacteria, or fungi, which can lead to major health issues and serious infections. Immunocompromised individuals are also at higher risk of cancer and autoimmune diseases.
Immunocompromisation is also known as immunodeficiency.
Safeopedia Explains Immunocompromisation
There are two types of immunodeficiency:
- Primary immune deficiency, which is present at birth. Some of these hereditary conditions are rare and affect the white blood cells and complement proteins. They include congenital neutropenia syndromes, severe combined immunodeficiency, Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome, common variable immunodeficiency, and chronic granulomatous disease.
- Secondary immune deficiency, which is acquired later in life. This type of immune deficiency can result from chemotherapy, organ transplants, or immunosuppresants. HIV, diabetes, malnourishment, and other conditions can also bring about an immunodeficiency.
Symptoms of Immunodeficiency
Symptoms of a compromised immune system include:
- Become ill frequently
- Infections that are unresponsive to medication
- Severe sickness from viruses typically considered mild
- Sinus and lung infections
- Weight loss and slow growth in children
Factors that Weaken the Immune System
According to Dr. David Porter, MD, director of cell therapy and transplantation at Penn Medicine there are five things that can weaken the immune system:
- Medical treatments (e.g. radiation therapy to treat cancer, immune suppressants to treat autoimmune disease, stem cell transplantation)
- Chronic disease (HIV, AIDS, lupus, type 1 diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis are among the diseases that cause the immune system to be over-reactive and attach healthy tissues)
- Transplants (organ or bone marrow transplants leave the body immunocompromised during the first few weeks of recovery due to a lack of white blood cells, along with the use of anti-rejection drugs and immune suppressants)
- Smoking (smoking regularly affects the immune system's ability to respond to infection)
- Age (as we age, our bodies become less effective at responding to infections, while also being more likely to have developed a medical condition that affects the immune system)