Immune System Disorders - Fast Facts
- The human body's immune system is a complex network of cells and proteins located throughout the body, that defend against infections. Immune system disorders include allergic diseases, immunodeficiencies and autoimmune diseases.
- Clinical immunology/allergy specialists diagnose, treat and manage patients with immune system disorders. These specialists are listed on the ASCIA website www.allergy.org.au/patients/locate-a-specialist
- Overactivity of the immune system can take many forms. In allergic diseases the immune system makes an excessive response to proteins in substances (known as allergens). In autoimmune diseases the immune system mounts a response against normal components of the body.
- Allergic diseases are extremely common. These include food, drug or insect allergy, hay fever (allergic rhinitis), sinus disease, asthma, hives (urticaria) and eczema (atopic dermatitis). Anaphylaxis is the most severe type of allergic reaction and is potentially life-threatening. For fast facts about allergic diseases go to www.allergy.org.au/patients/fast-facts
- Autoimmune diseases range from common to rare. These include multiple sclerosis, autoimmune thyroid disease, type 1 diabetes, systemic lupus erythematosus (lupus), rheumatoid arthritis and vasculitis. For Fast Facts about autoimmune diseases go to www.allergy.org.au/patients/fast-facts/autoimmune-diseases
- Underactivity of the immune system, also called immunodeficiency, can be inherited, acquired as a result of medical treatment or caused by another disease. Immunodeficiency predisposes people to infections ad/or swellings and can be life threatening in severe cases.
- Primary immunodeficiencies are conditions in which the immune system does not function correctly, leading to increased infections or swellings. These are usually inherited and include Common Variable Immune Deficiency (CVID), X-linked Severe Combined Immunodeficiency (SCID) and Hereditary Angioedema (HAE). For Fast Facts about primary immunodeficiencies go to www.allergy.org.au/patients/fast-facts/primary-immunodeficiencies
- Acquired immunodeficiencies include HIV/AIDS.
- Immunosuppression treatment is most often required for recipients of cancer chemotherapy and transplants (to prevent rejection or graft versus host disease). This can also make people more susceptible to infections.
- Research into the immune system has been active in recent decades. Australia and New Zealand have strong track records in these areas. This makes immunology and allergy a dynamic and constantly changing field of medicine. To learn more about the this, or to donate to research go to www.allergyimmunology.org.au
Content updated November 2018