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What Are Common Problems with the Immune System?

A diagram showing different types of white blood cells, an important part of the immune system.
Unhealthy lifestyle choices can increase the risks of developing problems with the immune system.
Article Details
  • Written By: Meshell Powell
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 07 August 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2014
    Conjecture Corporation
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Problems with the immune system can develop for a variety of reasons, including physical illness, lifestyle choices, or the use of certain medications. Autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus are often related to a faulty immune system. Allergic responses develop when the immune system becomes overactive, and it is widely believed that lifestyle issues such as smoking or unhealthy eating habits may contribute to the development of problems with the immune system. Medications used to treat conditions such as AIDS or cancer may also compromise the functioning of the body's natural immune system. Any specific questions or concerns about problems with the immune system in an individual situation should be discussed with a doctor or other medical professional.

Physical illness is the primary cause of problems with the immune system. Many different types of medical conditions can cause the immune system to malfunction. Lupus and rheumatoid arthritis are among the autoimmune diseases that cause problems with the immune system. Pain, swelling, and difficulty with mobility are among the possible symptoms associated with these diseases. Allergic reactions can cause the immune system to become overly active, resulting in symptoms such as itching, watering eyes, and difficulty breathing.

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Infections can cause problems with the immune system that range from mild to potentially fatal in nature. Fever, coughing, and digestive disturbances are common signs that an infection may be present somewhere in the body. Severe infections such as AIDS, appendicitis, or septicemia can spread throughout the entire body and cause the organs to stop functioning properly, sometimes leading to death.

Unhealthy lifestyle choices such as bad eating habits or smoking can increase the risks of developing problems with the immune system. Exposure to environmental toxins such as heavy metals or chemicals can reduce the body's ability to fight off foreign invaders. Adopting healthy dietary and exercise habits, eliminating smoking, and taking any necessary nutritional supplements may help to prevent or treat some of these problems involving the immune system. Household chemicals and other environmental toxins should be avoided whenever possible, especially by those who have a history of immune system dysfunction.

The use of some medications may lead to problems with the immune system. Drugs used to treat cancer or AIDS often slow down the immune system and cause the patient to become more susceptible to developing infections and other complications. These side effects usually disappear after the medications have been discontinued.

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