Doctors believe people with an immune deficiency can lead active and full lives. The goal is to help people regain or maintain control of their lives. Common goals for people with an immune deficiency include:
Participating in work, school, family, and social activities.
Decreasing the number and severity of infections.
Having few, if any, side effects from medications and other treatments.
Feeling good about themselves and their treatment program.
Your doctor may prescribe medications or other treatments to make you feel better and to protect you from foreign invaders. Medications and treatments must be chosen for your individual needs. They may need to be adjusted when your needs change. Medications and treatments for immune deficiencies include:
Antibiotics to fight and prevent infection;
Antibody (IVIG) replacement;
And other treatments (e.g. interferon).
Antibiotics are medications that fight bacterial infection. They are used when signs of infection are present. Your doctor may take a sample of secretions from the infected area to determine what antibiotic is the best choice. Antibiotics may also be used to prevent infection. Talk with your doctor about the possible side effects of antibiotics.
Individuals who are unable to produce adequate amounts of immunoglobulins or antibodies may benefit from replacement therapy with intravenous gammaglobulin.
Specific immune deficiencies that may benefit from antibody replacement may include:
Common variable immunodeficiency;
B-cell chronic lymphocytic leukemia;
Bone marrow transplant;
And human immunodeficiency virus (HIV is the virus that causes AIDS).
Antibody replacement with gamma globulin replaces IgG in the blood. Gammaglobulin given through a needle into a vein is called intravenous immune globulin (IVIG). This treatment is used for several types of immune deficiencies and helps the body fight infection.
Gamma globulin is made of antibodies from the blood of healthy people. Antibodies from at least 1,000 donors in each treatment provide protection against a wide variety of foreign invaders. The blood is carefully tested, and discarded if there is evidence of contagious diseases such as hepatitis or HIV. Talk with your doctor if you have any questions or concerns.
Because IVIG does not contain IgA or IgM, their protective functions are not replaced. People with immune deficiencies may continue to have trouble with respiratory infections. However, treatment with IVIG and early treatment of infections help many people with immune deficiencies lead active and full lives.
Other treatments are available for some types of immune deficiencies. Bone marrow transplants and gamma interferon are examples of these other treatments. Researchers in immunology are experimenting with gene therapy and other treatments that will be available in the future.