The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) put adults older than 60, people of all ages with underlying medical conditions, and immunocompromised individuals at higher risk of severe illness or death from viruses such as coronavirus, or COVID-19. But what does being immunocompromised mean? This article discusses the causes, symptoms, and risk factors of immunosuppression, as well as best practices for staying safe.
Immunocompromised means your immune system’s ability to fight off infections or diseases is compromised.
Your immune system is an adaptive network of organs, tissues, and cells that work together to fight off pathogens. When your immune defenses are weakened, you’re at a higher risk of infection and vulnerable to an aggressive or deadly disease progression.
This could be due to immunosuppression or immunodeficiency.
Immunosuppression occurs when the immune system is intentionally suppressed with medications, such as for autoimmune conditions or after an organ transplant.
Immunodeficiency is the result of the body’s inability to make enough of a specific type of blood cell to adequately defend against infections. There are two types of immunodeficiencies.
Primary immunodeficiency, of which there are over 300 kinds, arises from a genetic mutation. A condition such as chronic granulomatous disease (CGD) is diagnosed early in life, while other inherited primary immunodeficiencies, such as immunoglobulin A deficiency and common variable immunodeficiency (CVID) are diagnosed later in life. These conditions can greatly increase your risk for both respiratory and gastrointestinal infections.
The more common of the two, secondary immunodeficiency can be caused by certain medications and drug therapies, diseases such as type 2 diabetes or heart disease, malnutrition, or environmental factors.
Below is a list of possible causes of immunodeficiency or immunosuppression.
If you have not been diagnosed with a chronic or autoimmune disease but are manifesting the following symptoms, then a doctor’s consultation is in order. Your physician will conduct numerous lab tests to determine your immune system status as well as the root cause of compromise.
If you are immunocompromised it is important to follow the sanitary and social distancing guidelines of expert health organizations. Best practices include:
Certain risk factors for a compromised immune system, such as lack of sun exposure or physical activity, can be improved with dietary and lifestyle adjustments. You can boost your immune system by:
If you are specifically looking to boost your immune system against the coronavirus, check out this article: How to Boost Your Immune System Against Coronavirus.