What Is the Immune System?
THIS complex interaction of organs, cells, and microbes keeps us alive, though few of us understand it.
It consists of bone marrow, spleen, thymus and lymph nodes. The Immune System protects the body against disease or other potentially damaging foreign bodies.
When functioning properly, the Immune System identifies and attacks a variety of threats, including viruses, bacteria and parasites, while distinguishing them from the body’s own healthy tissue.
- Bone marrow produces white blood cells, or leukocytes. This is a spongy tissue inside some bones, such as the hip and thigh bones.
The spleen is the largest lymphatic organ which is on your left side, under your ribs and above your stomach. It contains white blood cells that fight infection or disease.
The thymus is a small organ hardly everyone ever heard of, situated beneath the breastbone where T-cells mature; they help destroy infected or cancerous cells.
Lymph nodes are small, bean-shaped structures that produce and store cells that fight infection and disease and are part of the lymphatic system. They are all over the body, and when the body is fighting an infection, lymph nodes can become enlarged and feel sore. So you will experience that your doctor will examine them very carefully if you see the doctor. He will check your neck and lower jaw, your armpits and groins for enlarged lymph nodes.
Lymphocytes are small white blood cells that play a large role in defending the body against disease. They make antibodies that attack bacteria and help destroy infected or cancerous cells and kill cells that are infected with viruses.
Diseases of the Immune System are a group of diseases called Autoimmune diseases that occur when the Immune System of the human body attacks the own body cells instead of protecting them. Doctors do not know exactly what causes the immune-system misfire and self-attack.
Disorders of the Immune System can result in autoimmune diseases, inflammatory diseases and cancer.
- Certain autoimmune diseases, like Multiple Sclerosis (damages the protective coating that surrounds nerve cells), run in families. Not every family member will necessarily have the same disease, but they inherit a chance to an autoimmune condition.
- Type 1 Diabetes – the Immune System attacks and destroys insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. High blood sugar results can lead to damage in the blood vessels, as well as organs like the heart, kidneys, eyes, and nerves.
- If Immune System-related diseases are defined very broadly, then allergic diseases such as asthma are very common. However, these actually represent a hyper-response to external allergic substances. Asthma and Allergies also involve the Immune System. A normally harmless material, such as grass pollen, food particles, mold or pet dander, is mistaken for a severe threat and attacked.
Allergic conditions may be evaluated using either blood tests or allergy skin testing to identify what allergens trigger symptoms.
Diagnosis and treatment of Immune System diseases
Even though symptoms of immune diseases vary, fever and fatigue are common signs that the Immune System is not functioning properly.
Most of the time, immune deficiencies are diagnosed at PIH with blood tests that either measure the level of immune elements or their functional activity.
Bottom line: There are more than 80 different autoimmune diseases. Often their symptoms overlap, making them hard to diagnose.
Autoimmune diseases are more common in women, and they often run in families. The main treatment for autoimmune diseases is with medications that bring down inflammation and calm the overactive immune response. Treatments can also help relieve symptoms.
Treatments cannot cure autoimmune diseases, but they can control the overactive immune response and bring down inflammation or at least reduce pain and inflammation. Eating a well-balanced diet and getting regular exercise may also help you feel better.
When to see a doctor?
See a doctor if you have symptoms of an autoimmune disease. You might need to visit a specialist, depending on the type of disease you have.
Your PIH specialist doctor will help you. No single test can diagnose most autoimmune diseases. Your doctor will use a combination of tests and a review of your symptoms and physical examination to diagnose you.
Who may attack our Immune System – and what is the Corona Virus or Covid-19?
Coronaviruses are a type of virus. There are many different kinds, and some cause disease. A newly identified coronavirus, Sars-CoV-2, has caused a worldwide pandemic of respiratory illness, called Covid-19 and has emerged in Wuhan, China in 2019.
How does the new Corona virus spread?
As of now, researchers know that the new coronavirus is spread through droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The droplets generally do not travel more than a few feet, and they fall to the ground (or onto surfaces) in a few seconds – this is why physical distancing is effective in preventing the spread.
Best protect yourself using a face mask!
In Switzerland and Germany a larger scale analysis of infection tracings took place for Covid infections. Analysis of these infection showed that using a face shield does not prevent from Covid infection.
Health authorities in Switzerland stated that “…using a face shield provides a false impression of security but does not protect from a Covid infection…”
They recommend that if social distancing of minimum 1.5 meter cannot be guaranteed a face mask covering nose and face has to be recommended.
The German Robert-Koch Institute also recommends the use of face masks covering nose and mouth and states that face shields without masks are of no protective value.
What is the incubation period for Covid-19 ?
It appears that symptoms are showing up in people within 14 days of exposure to the virus.
What are symptoms of Covid-19?
- Cough, fever or chills
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Muscle or body aches
- Sore throat
- New loss of taste or smell
- Diarrhea, headache, fatigue
- Nausea or vomiting
- Congestion or runny nose
New, bizarre symptoms: Skin rashes and “Covid-toes,” where the toes become red and swollen from tiny blood clots, are some of the newer symptoms that may be early warning signs of Covid-19.
In rare cases, Covid-19 can lead to severe respiratory problems, kidney failure or death.
How do you protect yourself
from this coronavirus?
It is crucial to practice good hygiene (disinfecting your hands), physical distancing (min 1.5 meter) and wear a face mask covering nose and mouth.
Next week: The Lungs