Your immune system is a crucial part of keeping your body healthy. Unfortunately, some people suffer from immune disorders, a problem with the immune system that can lead to other complications. While there is no cure for immune disorders, there is treatment available. Read on to learn more.
Reviewed by the Office of Clinical Evaluation and Policy (OCEP), Evernorth
The immune system is an essential part of defending the body against harmful invaders, such as viruses and bacteria. It is made up of a network of specific cells, tissues, and organs that help protect the body against infections. White blood cells, lymph nodes, bone marrow, the thymus and the spleen are major players in the immune system.
An immune disorder can develop if there is a problem with the immune system, whether it starts at birth or is acquired due to a disease. An individual with an immune disorder may experience an increased risk of infections or chronic inflammation, depending on the type of immune disorder they have.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for immune disorders. However, immune disorders are treatable, with various options available to help relieve symptoms and improve an affected person’s quality of life. In most cases, managing an immune disorder is a lifelong journey.
Continue reading to learn more about immune disorders and the available treatments to help manage them.
Types of immune disorders
There are different types of disorders that involve the immune system. These disorders may develop due to various reasons, such as a poorly functioning immune system at birth, a disease that attacks the immune system, or an overactive immune system. Examples of immune disorders include:
Someone with an immunodeficiency disorder has a weakened immune system. It can be a hereditary disorder that a person is born with (severe combined immunodeficiency, or SCID) or a disorder that is acquired. People who are on chemotherapy or who have received an organ transplant may experience an acquired immunodeficiency disorder that can last temporarily or long-term. Infection with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) can also lead to a weakened immune system.
An allergic disorder can develop when the immune system overreacts to a substance that is normally harmless, such as pollen or dust. Allergic disorders can include allergic rhinitis, allergic dermatitis, and allergic asthma.
An autoimmune disorder occurs when the body’s immune system attacks healthy, normal cells and tissues. This type of immune disorder can lead to inflammation and damage to the body’s tissues. Examples of autoimmune disorders include rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and psoriasis.
Treatment options for immune disorders
The treatment for immune disorders can vary depending on the condition, symptoms, and severity. The goal of treating immunodeficiency disorders is to strengthen the immune system and fight or prevent infections. On the other hand, the goal of treating allergic reactions or autoimmune diseases is to suppress the immune system and manage pain or inflammation.
Immunodeficiency disorder treatments
The treatment for primary immunodeficiency disorders typically includes immunoglobulin replacement therapy to provide antibodies for fighting infections, stem cell transplantation to provide healthy infection-fighting cells, and antibiotics to treat or prevent infections.
Allergic disorder treatments
Corticosteroids are commonly prescribed drugs that can be administered orally, topically and intranasally to reduce inflammation. Treatments for certain allergic disorders, such as atopic dermatitis, may include immunosuppressant drugs, such as cyclosporine, methotrexate and mycophenolate, and biologic drugs, such as dupilumab (Dupixent®) and tralokinumab (AdbryTM). For allergic rhinitis, antihistamines or decongestants may be recommended.
Autoimmune disorder treatments
Treatment for autoimmune disorders includes immunosuppressants, corticosteroids, and tumor necrosis factor (TNF) inhibitors. These medications help relieve inflammation and suppress the immune system. In some cases, certain immunomodulators and monoclonal antibodies may be recommended to target white blood cells involved with autoimmune reactions. Plasma exchange can be used to filter out autoantibodies from the blood and may be useful for some autoimmune disorders.
Getting the right treatment
It’s important to consult a healthcare provider to determine the right treatment option for you. After a complete assessment of your overall health condition, a healthcare provider can help determine the safest and most effective treatment option. Side effects and drug interactions are possible with immune disorder treatments. Tell your healthcare provider about any medical conditions you have or other medications you’re taking before starting treatment for an immune disorder.