Effects of Compromised Immune System

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  • 0:02 The Immune System
  • 0:45 Immunodeficiency
  • 1:49 Autoimmune Diseases
  • 3:03 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Sarah Friedl

Sarah has two Master's, one in Zoology and one in GIS, a Bachelor's in Biology, and has taught college level Physical Science and Biology.

Your immune system helps keep you healthy by protecting you from all sorts of diseases and other microscopic dangers. But when your immune system doesn't function properly, it has a hard time doing its job, and you're likely to get very sick.

The Immune System

I don't want to scare you, but your body is constantly under attack. There are harmful bacteria, viruses, pathogens, and all sorts of things trying to worm their way in and make your body their new home. Luckily, you have your immune system, which is the body's system of defense against disease-causing agents. It keeps you healthy and prevents these invaders from setting up shop.

Your immune system is constantly working to keep you alive and well. It searches non-stop for foreign intruders and attacks anything it thinks might be there trying to harm you. There are all sorts of cells, tissues, glands, and organs involved in this process, working around the clock like a biological army.


Unfortunately, like any good system, there's the possibility for failure. And when your immune system fails, your health is in serious jeopardy because your body can't fight off harmful diseases.

Sometimes people are simply born with an inadequate immune system. These defects are called immunodeficiency diseases because the normal immune response is either not present or is defective. People who have immunodeficiency diseases are susceptible to a whole host of diseases and infections. They get sick a lot because their body can't fight off the constant barrage of attacks from the natural environment.

Deficient immune systems can also develop later in life. Things like AIDS and lymphoma cancers affect the immune system and leave the body open to attack. People with these deficiencies thus frequently become ill with other diseases and are vulnerable to even minor infections. And, ironically, the radiation treatment used to fight some cancers may also contribute to a weakened immune system, further exacerbating the problem.

Autoimmune Diseases

In contrast to a deficient immune system, sometimes an immune system will go haywire and turn against the body itself. This comes from an autoimmune disease, such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn's disease, and multiple sclerosis. In these instances, instead of fighting off intruders, the body is essentially fighting itself. This can lead to joint inflammation, arthritis, neuron dysfunction, kidney malfunction, and even paralysis, depending on the specific disease.

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