Having a robust immune system is a blessing, especially in uncertain time likes these. A reliable immune system keeps most diseases and infections at bay, keeping us stronger and healthier every day.
Understanding The Immune System
Your immune system works hard to keep you protected. The better functioning of the immune system depends on how efficiently your body recognizes foreign particles and sends defender cells to kill them.
There are two ways in which your immune cells respond to such invasions.
Cells of the immune system, called T-cells, generate cell-mediated responses. Once a foreign particle enters the body and infects a cell, it's up to the T cells to do their job. T-cells recognize an infected cell, be it a cancerous cell or pathogen-infected cell and create a cascade of reactions to either eliminate the cell or deactivate it. This is mostly done via lysis or breakdown of the cell.
Humoral Immune Response
The response generated by the action of B-cells is called a humoral immune response. Once the T-cells have done their job of binding and neutralizing the infected cells, the immune system makes a copy of the foreign body for future safety.
If the same pathogen enters the body next time, B cells start producing antigens called antibodies. These antibodies neutralize the foreign particle before it even gets to the cells this time.
This was T and B cells working perfectly, making you immunocompetent.
Immune System Disorders
The immune system is a fascinating, complex system that protects you from millions of bacteria, viruses, and other invaders. When your immune system fails to work efficiently, it is called an immune system disorder. There are multiple ways it could manifest
- Being born with a weak immune system, called primary immune deficiency
- Getting a disease that weakens the immune system, called acquired immune deficiency
- Having an immune system that turns on you, called autoimmune disease
- Having an overactive immune system called.
What Is A Hyperactive Immune System?
A hyperactive or overactive immune system reacts to foreign particles that are normally harmless. These foreign substances are called allergens. The most common example of an overactive immune system is allergies. And common examples of allergens include pollen, dust, foods and mold.
Some conditions that are caused by an overactive immune system include
- Pollen allergy
- Hay fever
- Food allergy
In all the diseases mentioned above, the immune system fires up, going in a full-blown attack against otherwise harmless foreign particles.
How Does The Immune System Turn Against You?
In an autoimmune disease, the immune system gets confused between self and foreign and, as a result, starts attacking the body's cells. This means it reads the body's tissues and cells as invaders and generates an immune response consisting of antibodies called auto-antibodies. These auto-antibodies attack the body's own tissues. Experts do not know why this happens.
Following this abnormality, if enough auto-antibodies are created, they can cause inflammation resulting in an autoimmune disorder.
A hyperactive immune system affects many parts of your body, ranging from the brain, joints, blood cells to the kidneys and lungs.
Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus
Do you know diabetes type-1 is also an autoimmune disorder?
Type 1 diabetes occurs when the body fails to produce enough insulin to uptake glucose.
Beta cells in the pancreas produce insulin. In type 1 diabetes, the immune system attacks the beta-cells, ultimately destroying them, causing insufficient insulin production. This insufficiency of insulin causes a high blood glucose level and no glucose availability to the cells of the body.
The brain receives and transmits messages throughout the body through nerves. To facilitate faster communication, some of these nerves are coated with a case called the myelin sheath. In multiple sclerosis, the immune system destroys this coating.
As a result, the communication of the brain to eyes, limbs and rest of the body gets slower or is entirely halted. Loss of balance, frequent spasms and extreme weakness are some symptoms of multiple sclerosis.
In rheumatoid arthritis, immune cells attack the protective lining of the joints. This protective lining is necessary to reduce friction between the joints that keep them from rubbing against each other. The damaged lining results in inflammation and bone deformities.
Do you know that about 5 million people worldwide have lupus?
Lupus is a long-term autoimmune disease in which a hyperactive immune system attacks healthy cells of lungs, kidneys, joints and heart. It begins as swelling that further progresses to a persistent rash on the skin, stiffness in joints and kidney failure.
Experts do not know exactly what causes the immune system to become overactive or have autoimmune diseases. Many factors seem to be involved including genetics and environmental.
If you or someone you know is suffering from an immune system disorder, learn as much as you can about it, try booster tips to strengthen your immune system, and closely work with your healthcare provider to manage it efficiently.
What is diabetes? National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.
Diabetes and oral health problems. American Diabetes Association.
What is multiple sclerosis? National Multiple Sclerosis Society.
Rheumatoid Arthritis. MedicineNet
Handout on health: Systemic lupus erythematosus. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases .
Anatomy & Physiology. CliffsNotes.