Understanding Primary Immunodeficiencies (PIDs)

Primary immunodeficiencies (PIDs) comprise over 450 conditions that affect the functionality of the body’s immune system. Individuals with PIDs experience deficiencies or non-functioning components of their immune systems, leaving them vulnerable to everyday germs like bacteria, fungi, and viruses. As a result, they face a higher frequency of infections, prolonged recovery times with antibiotic treatments, and recurrent infections even after treatment.

How PIDs Affect People

Symptoms of PIDs vary from mild to severe, depending on the specific type of PID. Recurrent colds or respiratory issues are common, while more severe complications such as heart problems, pneumonia, skin disorders, or arthritis may occur. PIDs are often diagnosed in early childhood, but signs can manifest at any age. Early detection and intervention are crucial for managing the diverse manifestations of PIDs.

What Causes PIDs

PIDs stem from genetic errors within the cells constituting the immune system, typically present from birth. These disorders are primarily genetic and inheritable, passing from one generation to the next. Certain DNA building blocks crucial to immune system functionality may be absent or altered, resulting in missing or faulty genes. PIDs are not contagious and cannot be transmitted through contact.

Why Call it Primary?

The term “primary” distinguishes these conditions from secondary immunodeficiencies, which arise from external factors like diseases, drug treatments, or malnutrition. Unlike acquired immunodeficiencies such as AIDS, PIDs originate from intrinsic genetic factors.

The Seriousness of PIDs

The impact of PIDs can be profound, ranging from life-threatening in severe cases like severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID) to recurrent illnesses disrupting education and social interactions. Psychological issues, including isolation and stress, also affect overall well-being.

Prevalence of PIDs

The precise prevalence of PIDs remains uncertain due to limited screening programs. Many individuals may go undiagnosed, leading relatively normal lives. However, estimates suggest that PIDs are not uncommon, with thousands affected worldwide.

How to Care for People with PIDs

People with PIDs receive care from multidisciplinary teams led by consultant immunologists. Specialized care is crucial given the rarity and complexity of these disorders.

Treatment for PIDs

Treatment varies depending on the type of PID and may include immunoglobulin replacement therapy, antibiotics, or advanced interventions like bone marrow transplantation or gene therapy. Preventative measures are also essential for maintaining well-being.

For comprehensive information on PIDs and strategies for staying healthy, explore our leaflets:

  • Primary Immunodeficiency – The Basics
  • Keeping Well and Healthy When You Have a PID