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How to Fight Immune System Diseases?
- Understanding immune system diseases first requires understanding how the system should work under normal conditions.
- Immune system diseases come in two forms. One form reduces immune system efficiency.The other form is when the body overreacts and attacks non-antigens as if they were foreign invaders.
One of the most important components of our body is the immune system. Not only does it help prevent us from becoming ill, but it helps speed up the healing process when we become injured or sick. However, things sometimes go wrong with this important system, and treating diseases that affect it can be extremely challenging.
How the Immune System Works
Understanding immune system diseases first requires understanding how the system should work under normal conditions. Unlike your brain or your spine, both of which have a central location in the body, the immune system is more spread out. It consists of lymphoid tissue around the body, including your tonsils, some of your spleen, your bone marrow, and more. Lymphoid tissue produces lymphocytes, or specialized white blood cells that come in two varieties: T and B. T lymphocytes attack body invaders (antigens) directly and try to destroy them. B lymphocytes attach themselves to the antigens so they can produce chemicals and other elements that will help to destroy the antigen quickly.
What are Immune System Diseases?
Immune system diseases come in two forms. One form reduces immune system efficiency. Usually, in this case, the T or B lymphocytes simply stop functioning correctly. With other diseases that affect the immune system, the body overreacts and attacks non-antigens as if they were foreign invaders. The former are known as immunodeficiency diseases and the latter are called autoimmune disorders.
Fighting back against immune system diseases of both types can be challenging. Autoimmune diseases are sometimes the most difficult because there is no clear way how to convince the body to stop attacking itself, which is essentially what it does in those cases. With these types of immune system diseases, the patient’s symptoms must be treated, but the disease itself can not be cured. Rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and lupus are some examples of autoimmune diseases.
The other type of immune system diseases can be fatal if they suppress lymphocyte functionality too much. AIDS is a good example of this. People who die from this immunodeficiency disease do so because their immune system becomes so weak it cannot fight off some of the most common and treatable illnesses, even the common cold.
Treating Immune System Diseases
Autoimmune diseases are often treated by minimizing flare-ups or periods when the immune system is working out of control. Physicians who specialize in these diseases can help patients learn what steps to take to decrease flare-ups. Sometimes this involves taking medication or changing the patient’s diet. In other cases, medications are provided to help patients deal with symptoms of the flare-up because nothing else can be done.
Other treatments are available for immunodeficiency-type diseases. In some cases, patients may be given antibiotics over extended periods of time to keep infections or illnesses from gaining hold in their bodies. Another form of treatment could be medications such as interferon and AZT (azidothymidine), both of which are designed to help boost the immune system.
A more intense treatment for these immune system diseases is a bone marrow transplant. By replacing bone marrow, one of the producers of lymphocytes, the hope is that the body will become more efficient at creating working lymphocytes in the body. Some hospitals can also do antibody replacement to help combat these diseases while others are studying gene therapy as a possible future treatment.
The information supplied in this article is not to be considered as medical advice and is for educational purposes only.
|Immune System Health14 Nov 2008|