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Immunosuppression: what it is, the symptoms and possible treatments

Microbiome bacteria

Being immunosuppressed involves greater risks for the health of the organism. Here is the specific meaning, symptoms and treatment of immunosuppression.

The immune system plays an essential role in protecting the body from viruses, bacteria and external agents. Its malfunction exposes the body to the risk of infections and diseases with greater ease. If the immune defenses are lowered, we are faced with a condition of immunosuppression, which can be congenital or temporary, that is dictated by transient factors , and therefore more easily resolved. Here is the meaning, symptoms and possible treatments of immunodeficiency.

Who is the immunosuppressed subject: the meaning

As mentioned, immunosuppressed subjects have low immune defenses that expose them more easily to infections and external attacks. Specifically, we speak of immunosuppression if the leukocytes , or white blood cells, fall below the norm, a clinical situation that is called leukopenia. Acceptable white blood cell values ​​are between 4,000 and 10,000 per mm3.

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In particular, two types of leukocytes play a fundamental role in the body’s defense against pathogens: B and T lymphocytes . The former are responsible for the production of antibodies, while the latter intervene in the aggression phase of the external agent.

The latter are divided into T “killer”, deputies to the effective destruction of the enemy to be fought, and T “suppressor” which, instead, contribute to the regulation of immune activity.

Therefore, in immunosuppressed subjects, the low quantity of leukocytes and the consequent ineffectiveness of the action of the lymphocytes described above do not adequately protect the body, making it more fragile and vulnerable to external attacks.

The causes of immunosuppression

The causes of immunosuppression can be of various types; in particular, a distinction is made between pathological and non-pathological causes, the latter dictated by contingent factors, including stress or the use of particular drugs , and as such, more easily resolved.

Among the pathological causes, we include some pathologies or particular clinical conditions, including autoimmune diseases , such as multiple sclerosis or rheumatoid arthritis, HIV, Lupus erythematosus, tumors or organ transplantation.
These can be congenital, that is present from birth, or acquired, that is, developed in the course of life.

The non-pathological causes instead depend above all on some of the following factors : stress, prolonged use of antibiotics or chemotherapy drugs, pregnancy, alcohol and drug abuse. It must be said that age also has an important impact on the functioning of the immune system: with the passage of time, in fact, the immune defenses tend to lower.

In the presence of non-pathological causes, immunosuppression comes closest to a transitory condition , which can therefore be treated more easily, for example through the adoption of a correct lifestyle.

Stress dermatitis
Stress dermatitis

The main symptoms of immunosuppressed subjects

The main alarm bells that signal the presence of low immune defenses are above all a sense of weakness , fatigue, headache, fever and muscle aches.

Not only that, skin problems , such as rashes and rashes, or hair loss can also indicate a malfunction of the immune system. In these cases it is good to contact your doctor who, if appropriate, will prescribe specific diagnostic tests.

Immunosuppression: how it is diagnosed

The diagnosis of immunosuppression can be made in the first instance through a physical examination and the medical history of the doctor, during which the specialist collects general information on the lifestyle and clinical history of the patient and closest family members.

For the purpose of a correct diagnosis, however, specific blood tests are essential to understand if you are dealing with an immunosuppressed subject. These in particular are aimed at verifying the quantity of white blood cells, T lymphocytes and immunoglobulins.

In specific cases, further diagnostic investigations may be required, including radiological, cardiological and genetic tests, especially where there is a suspicion of an autoimmune disease or there are familiarities.

fruits and vegetables
fruits and vegetables

How immunosuppression is treated

In the event that you are faced with a transient deficiency condition, it is possible to intervene with a specific diet : there are in fact some foods that stimulate the immune system that can help us in this sense, obviously associated with a correct lifestyle .

In particular, sedentary lifestyle and stress , two sworn enemies of the proper functioning of the immune system, should be avoided. In addition, it is also possible to intervene with the intake of specific supplements , always on the doctor’s advice.

For real immunosuppressed subjects, whose condition is attributable to pathological causes, the consultation of the doctor and the strict observance of the rules and indications prescribed by him remain fundamental.

However, there are some good habits that immunosuppressed patients can follow on a daily basis to protect themselves better. Washing your hands often and carefully is one of them: hands are in fact the main vehicle for the transmission of germs and bacteria.

People with a deficit of the immune system should then try to avoid contact with people with communicable diseases and to stay too long in closed and very crowded places.

The Covid-19 pandemic has forced immunosuppressed individuals to pay particular attention due to low immune defenses, which expose them more easily to the danger of contagion and to a greater aggressiveness of the disease.

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