Dr. Donald Levy, Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, Orange County Ca

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Office Location:
705 W. La Veta Ave.
Suite 101
Orange, CA 92868
(714) 639-7847



Immune Deficiency Disorders


An immune deficiency disease occurs when one or more cells within the immune system do not operate properly, or the system is absent altogether. Some immune deficiency diseases are relatively common, while others are extremely rare.

Primary Immune Deficiency

A primary immune deficiency occurs when the abnormalities of the immune system develop from an inborn defect in the cells. Affected cells include T-cells, B-cells, phagocytic cells or the complement system.

Most primary immune deficiencies are inherited diseases; examples include X-linked agammaglobulinemia (XLA) and severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID), and this appears to run in families. Other primary immune deficiencies, such as common variable immunodeficiency (CVID), appear less obviously inherited, but the causes
of the defects are unknown and genetic factors cannot be ruled out.

Secondary Immune Deficiency

Secondary immune deficiencies occur when damage is caused by an environmental factor. Radiation, chemotherapy, burns and infections contribute to the many causes of secondary immune deficiencies. Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS)
is a secondary immune deficiency caused by the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). In leukemia and multiple myeloma, cancerous immune cells crowd out the normal stem cells of the bone marrow. These abnormal cells reduce the number of
B cells and lead to hypogammaglobulinemia, another type of secondary immune deficiency.


The most apparent sign of an immune deficiency disorder is frequent illness from
other afflictions. Most people do not realize that they have an immune deficiency disorder until they are affected by another disease or infection. Such recurrent infections are the most common problems experienced by individuals with immune deficiencies.

  • Recurrent sinus  and chest (pneumonia, bronchitis) infections are quite common. Early recognition and treatment of such infections are important to prevent permanent damage. Changes in color or amounts of sputum and nasal secretions may be early signs of infection. Antibiotic therapy is frequently required, usually for extended periods of time.

  • Conjunctivitis (eyes that are red or ooze pus) is another condition frequently observed in individuals with immune deficiency diseases. In many cases, if the patient's immune deficiency is treated monthly with gammaglobulin, the conjunctivitis improves, although additional antibiotics are sometimes needed.

  • Diarrhea is a common problem of immune deficient patients. This is often caused by infections or an overgrowth of normal bacteria that live in the gastrointestinal tract. Stool samples should be obtained if a patient experiences pain, bloating or diarrhea. If the results are positive for organisms such as Giardia, antibiotic therapy is necessary.

  • Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus aureus infections (MRSA). While Staphylococcus aureus is a common bacterium (germ) that is normally present on the skin and in the nose of most people, it can cause opportunistic infections in people with suppressed immune systems. What's more, certain strains of the bacteria have become resistant to a common antibiotic (methicilin) used to treat these infections. MRSA is more difficult to treat because it is resistant to methicillin and must be treated with a different antibiotic.


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