Immunodeficiency: Overview

Immunodeficiency is the general medical term for very low immunity, where a person is susceptible easily to many types of infection. The terms immune-deficient or immunocompromised may also be used. The best known cause is late-stage AIDS, but there are many other types and causes. Immunodeficiency is either at birth (primary) or acquired later in life. Primary immunodeficiency occurs when a baby has one of various genetic disorders of the cells of immune system, such as SCID (“bubble boy syndrome”). Acquired immunodeficiency may be caused by AIDS, severe chronic illness, severe malnutrition, severe emotional disorders, certain cancers, or from the use of immunosuppressant drugs (e.g. in the treatment of autoimmune diseases) or in a bone marrow transplant. Patients with immune deficiency get many types of infection, called Opportunistic Infections, and may also get unusual types of cancer (e.g. Kaposi Sarcoma in AIDS).

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