15 Symptoms of Immune System Problems
For the last year, as we’ve collectively faced a global pandemic, there have been many discussions about the immune system – or, more specifically, people who are immuno-compromised. Countless related questions have emerged, from what age older people’s immune systems are more vulnerable to COVID-19 to what steps you can take to strengthen your immune system. Something that everyone seems to have wondered at some point is this puzzling question: How do I even know if I have an immune system problem?
To answer that, first, we’ll take a brief look at what the immune system is and how it functions in the body. Then, we’ll cover 15 symptoms that you have an immune system problem.
Understanding the Immune System
There are two main parts of the immune system, both of which work together to protect your body from bacteria, viruses, fungi and toxins. Comprising of organs, cells and proteins, this network identifies and fights harmful invaders as they enter your system. The innate immune system is the one you’re born with. Its cells surround and attack outside invaders immediately. The acquired immune system, as its name implies, is developed over time as your body is exposed to microbes or the chemicals they release. With the help of the innate system, it’s responsible for developing antibodies, or immunity, to protect your body from repeat invasions from a specific source.
With that in mind, it’s clear why there’s so much focus placed on keeping your immune system in optimal condition. However, keep in mind that many issues with autoimmune condition scan be traced to birth, while only some are caused by environmental factors. Here are some of the most common weak immune system symptoms.
When blood vessels are inflamed, as is common in immune-compromised individuals, it can be harder to keep your fingers, toes, ears and even your nose warm. This can cause the skin in these areas to appear white or blue when you’re exposed to the cold. As blood flow returns, you may notice redness in the skin.
Both diarrhea and constipation are potential warning signs for a weakened immune system. Particularly, if you have diarrhea that lasts more than two to four weeks, it could signal that your immune system is damaging your small intestine’s lining or the digestive tract in general. Bowel movements that are very firm or appear similar to small rabbit pellets could suggest the immune system is slowing down your intestines.
Many people with an immune system disease report having dry eyes. This can feel likes and or the perpetual feeling that something is stuck in your eye. Others describe it as general pain, redness, a stringy discharge or blurry vision. In some cases, those who have an autoimmune disorder lose the ability to cry.
If you know that you’re getting the proper amount of rest, but you can’t shake the feeling that you’re tired all the time, it could be a sign of a weakened immune system. This symptom is often accompanied by aching joints and sore muscles.
When your immune system has to put in extra work, it can cause you to run a higher temperature than normal. This could be due to an incoming infection, or it could be an autoimmune condition flaring up.
There are many reasons that people get headaches, but specific inflammation disorders like vasculitis are known to bring on strong headaches. Especially paired with other symptoms, it’s worth checking if your headaches are linked to something more concerning.
As your body’s first line of defense against germs, your skin can tell you a lot about your health. In the case of a weakened immune system, itchy, dry, redskin is a common symptom of inflammation. A painful rash or one that doesn’t show signs of clearing up can be, too.
When the lining inside your joints is inflamed, the surrounding area becomes sensitive. It can also become stiff or swollen, affected one or more joints. Often, this symptom is at its worst in the morning.
Patches of hair loss
An immune deficiency can cause your immune system to attack hair follicles, causing you to lose hair on your scalp, face or other parts of your body – a condition known as alopecia areata. In lupus, an autoimmune disorder, strands or clumps of hair falling out is a common symptom.
If you find yourself needing to take antibiotics more than twice a year (or four times for children), it might be a sign that your body isn’t fighting invaders well on its own. Chronic sinus infections, more than four ear infections in a year, or more than one case of pneumonia can also be a cause for concern.
Prone to blisters, rashes or scaly patches after spending time in the sun? You could have an autoimmune disorder. Chills, a headache or nausea following exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays could be a symptom, as well.
Tingling and/or numbness in the hands and feet
In Guillain-Barre syndrome, people often experience numbness that starts in the legs before moving up to their arms and chest. This happens because the body is attacking the nerves that send signals to your muscles. Guillain-Barre syndrome typically lasts up to 30 days, but Chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy (CIDP) has similar symptoms and lasts for eight weeks, often reoccurring.
Sometimes, a weakened immune system causes your esophagus to swell or become exceedingly weak, making it difficult to move food from your mouth to your stomach. This sensation might feel like food is stuck in the throat or chest, causing someone to gag or choke.
Unexplained weight changes
If you haven’t adopted new eating habits or a different exercise regimen, be cautious of unexpected weight gain or loss. It’s possible that damage to your thyroid gland as a result of an autoimmune disease could be the culprit.
White patches or yellowing of your skin
Ina weakened state caused by autoimmune skin disorders, your immune system might start to fight different healthy cells throughout your body. When it attacks the skin’s pigment-making cells, known as melanocytes, white patches of skin may appear. In the case of liver cells, your skin or eyes may turn yellow, a condition called jaundice that can lead to autoimmune hepatitis.
These symptoms can often be linked to other issues and are not necessarily causes of a weak immune system, so it’s important not to panic or self-diagnose if you’re experiencing one or more. Instead, voice your concerns to your primary care physician, who can help get to the root of the problem through an evaluation and testing, as necessary. They can also review different types of immune system diseases with you and identify if any could be a potential source of your ailments.
If your symptoms are severe and you require immediate medical attention, remember that Laredo Emergency Room is available to help 24/7/365.
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