Diseases, Disorders & Function

The role of the Immune System, a collection of structures and processes within the body, is to protect against disease or other potentially damaging foreign bodies. While humans do not always assist in good habits that ease the responsible of the Immune System, when functioning properly it will identify a variety of threats, including viruses, bacteria and parasites, and distinguish them from the body's healthy tissue. Merck Manuals


Lymph Nodes: Small, bean-shaped structures that produce

and store cells that fight infection and disease and are part of

the Lymphatic system consisting of bone marrow, spleen,

thymus and Lymph nodes. Lymph nodes also contain Lymph,

the clear fluid that carries those cells to different parts of the

body. When the body is fighting infection, Lymph Nodes can

become enlarged and feel sore. University of California, San Diego

Spleen: The largest Lymphatic organ in the body is located on your left side, under the ribs and above the stomach. It contains white blood cells that fight infection or disease. The Spleen helps control the amount of blood in the body and disposes of old or damaged blood cells.

Bone Marrow: The yellow tissue in the center of the bones produces white blood cells. This spongy tissue inside some bones, such as the hip and thigh bones, contains immature cells, called stem cells. Stem cells, especially embryonic stem cells, derived from eggs fertilized in vitro (outside the body) are prized for their flexibility in being able to morph into any human cell. National Institutes of Health (NIH)

Lymphocytes: These small white blood cells play a large role in defending the body against diseases. The two types of lymphocytes are B-cells, which make antibodies that attack bacteria and toxins and T-cells that help destroy infected or cancerous cells. Killer T-cells are a sub-group of T-cells that kill cells that are infected with viruses and other pathogens or are otherwise damaged. Helper T-cells determine which immune responses the body makes to a particular pathogen. Mayo Clinic

Thymus: This small organ is where T-cells mature. It is an often over-looked part of the Immune System situated beneath the breastbone (shaped like a thyme leaf, hence the name). It can trigger or maintain the production of antibodies that can result in muscle weakness. The Thymus is somewhat large in infants and grows until puberty. It then starts to slowly shrink and become replaced by fat with age. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke

Leukocytes: These disease-fighting white blood cells identify and eliminate pathogens and are the second arm of the Immune System. A high white blood cells count is referred to as Leukocytosis. The inner Leukocytes include Phagocytes (macrophages, neutrophils, dendritic cells), mast cells, eosinophils, basophils. Mayo Clinic


Immune System related diseases are defined very broadly. Allergic diseases such as allergic rhinitis, asthma and eczema are a few. These diseases actually represent a hyper-response to external allergens. Asthma and allergies the Immune System. Normally harmless materials such as grass pollen, food particles, mold or pet dander

are mistaken for a severe threat and are attacked.

Other dysregulation of the Immune System includes autoimmune diseases such as Lupus and Rheumatoid Arthritis. These are less common diseases to a deficient

Immune System conditions that are antibody deficiencies and cell mediated

conditions that my show up congenitally

Dr. Matthew Lau, chief department allergy and immunology, Kaiser Permanente Hawaii.

Immunodeficiency occurs when the Immune System is not as strong as normal resulting in recurring and life-threatening infections. In humans, immunodeficiency can either be the result of genetic disease such as severe combined immunodeficiency, acquired conditions such as HVI/AIDS or through the use of immunosuppressive medication.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, autoimmunity results from a hyperactive Immune System. It attacks normal tissues as if they were foreign bodies. Common autoimmune disease include Hashimoto's thyroiditis, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes mellitus (type 1) and systemic Lupus erythematosus. Another disease considered to be an autoimmune disorder is myasthenia gravis (pronounced my-us-THEE-nee-uh GRAY-vis). University of Rochester Medical Center

Diagnosing & Treatment of IMMUNE SYSTEM DISEASES

Most of the time medical professionals diagnose Immune deficiencies with blood tests that either measure the level of immune elements or their functional activity. Allergic conditions may be evaluated using either using blood tests or allergy skin testing to identify what allergens trigger symptoms.

Once diagnosed, medications that reduce the immune response (corticosteroids, monoclonal antibodies, other immune suppressive agents) can be helpful.

Monoclonal Antibodies are a type of protein made in a lab that can bind to substances in the body. They can be used to regulate parts of the immune response what are causing inflammation. Monoclonal antibodies are often used to treat cancer. They have been shown to carry drugs, toxins or radioactive substances directly to cancer cells.

SUMMARY: There is a lot to digest, but the Immune System is too important to ignore when it is so necessary to maintaining a healthy Immunity. There is so much more to be learned about this System, and we have only touched the surface of how it works to keep you healthy.

The immune system is the body's defense system. A weakened immune system can manifest into many ailments caused by stress, poor diet, lack of adequate sleep, burnout and depression to name a few.

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The information on this page is for educational purposes only and should not replace consultation with a health care provider. The material offered here is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent disease and is available to the general public via various public sources.