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Thymus as an often-overlooked part of the immune system

Diseases of the immune system

If immune system-related diseases are defined very broadly, then allergic diseases such as allergic rhinitis, asthma and eczema are very common. However, these actually represent a hyper-response to external allergens, according to Dr. Matthew Lau, chief, department of allergy and immunology at Kaiser Permanente Hawaii. 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.

Other dysregulation of the immune system includes autoimmune diseases such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.

“Finally, some less common disease related to deficient immune system conditions are antibody deficiencies and cell mediated conditions that may show up congenitally,” Lau told Live Science.

Disorders of the immune system can result in autoimmune diseases, inflammatory diseases and cancer, according to the NIH.

Immunodeficiency occurs when the immune system is not as strong as normal, resulting in recurring and life-threatening infections, according to the University of Rochester Medical Center.  In humans, immunodeficiency can either be the result of a genetic disease such as severe combined immunodeficiency, acquired conditions such as HIV/AIDS, or through the use of immunosuppressive medication.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, autoimmunity results from a hyperactive immune system attacking normal tissues as if they were foreign bodies, according to the University of Rochester Medical Center. Common autoimmune diseases include Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes mellitus type 1 and systemic lupus erythematosus. Another disease considered to be an autoimmune disorder is myasthenia gravis (pronounced my-us-THEE-nee-uh GRAY-vis).