All people get sick -- whether from a cold, the flu, or a cut or scrape that gets infected. Most people can just wait it out and know the condition will eventually get better.
We are able to recover from sickness because the body’s immune system exists to fight off germs, bacteria, viruses, and other invaders that make us sick. But for people with Primary Immunodeficiency Disease (PIDD), even a simple scrape or sinus infection can cause on-going problems.
PIDD is a condition caused by an error in the immune system that prevents it from functioning correctly. A key component of the immune system is white blood cells.
These cells are made inside the bone marrow. They travel throughout the body in the blood and lymph system to be available wherever they are needed to fight off invaders.
Researchers have identified more than 150 kinds of PIDD. People with the most common kinds have certain types of white blood cells are missing or malfunctioning.
PIDD can target specific organs, glands, or tissues, or may target multiple organs. Some types of PIDD lead to heart defects, while others cause changes in facial features or stunted growth. Primary Immunodeficiency Disease can also be connected with autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis.
PIDD is not contagious. You can’t catch it from someone else who has it. PIDD can be inherited from a close family member, or may be the result of a genetic mutation. Some cases of PIDD are the result of environmental factors that compromise the immune system.
PIDD can affect anyone of any age. Serious cases of PIDD are usually diagnosed in infancy. Milder cases may not be diagnosed until adulthood after a pattern of recurring infections is noted.
People with PIDD typically have an increased susceptibility to infections. Some people tend to have repeated infections in a particular area, such as in the skin, sinuses, ears, brain, spinal cord, or urinary or intestinal tracts.
Some people with PIDD seem to recover from infections only to have the infection come back while others spend months taking antibiotics without improvement.
Warning signs of PIDD include:
• Recurrent infections or infections that are hard to treat
• Poor growth or loss of weight
• Multiple rounds of antibiotics to fight infections
• Need for IV antibiotics
• Deep abscesses in the organs or skin
• Swollen lymph glands
• Enlarged spleen
• Autoimmune disease
• Family history of PIDD
In children, warning signs include:
• Four or more new ear infections in a year
• Two or more serious sinus infections in a year
• Two months on antibiotics without a cure
• Pneumonia twice in a year
• Thrush or fungal infections
• Failure of an infant to grow or gain weight
If you or your child has experienced repeated, hard-to-treat infections, talk to your health care provider about the possibility of PIDD. Treatments are available to help the immune system function more efficiently and to reduce the risk of repeated infections.
American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology. Primary Immunodeficiency Disease. Web. September 11, 2011.
Immune Deficiency Foundation. About Primary Immunodeficiency Diseases. Web. September 11, 2011.
ImmuneDisease.com. Symptoms of PI. Web. September 11, 2011.
Reviewed September 13, 2011
by Michele Blacksberg R.N.
Edited by Jody Smith