Immunosuppression is a reduction in the efficacy of the immune system. Some parts of the immune system itself have immunosuppressive effects on the other parts of the immune system, and immunosuppression may also occur as an adverse reaction to the treatment of other conditions. It may result from certain diseases such as lymphoma or AIDS, or from certain drugs that are used to treat cancer. Immunosuppression may also be induced with drugs that are used during preparation for the bone marrow or any other organ transplantation to prevent the rejection of the transplant.
Symptoms and Signs of Immunosuppression
In general terms, immunosuppressed patients have an altered relationship with foreign antigens including the pathogenic microbes. It brings about the following clinically important changes:
- Opportunistic infections by harmless organisms such as:
v Viral infections including zoster, herpes infections, CMV
v Bacterial infections such as S. aureus
v Fungal infections such as Aspergillus
- Rapid progress of the infections
- Changes in the usual signs and symptoms of infection, including laboratory parameters
- Malignancies such as tumors in graft recipients
In addition to systemic infection, the general health of these patients is weakened by these factors:
- Side effects of various medical procedures
- Any underlying illness
- Adverse drug reactions
Treatment of Immunosuppression
The objective of immunosuppression treatment is to prevent infections and treat any disease or infections that develop. If you have a weakened immune system, you should avoid contacting persons who have infections or contagious disorders. You also have to avoid people who have been vaccinated with live virus vaccines in the past 15 days. If you develop any infections, your doctor will treat you aggressively. This treatment may involve long-term use of antibiotic or antifungal medications/drugs and preventive (prophylactic) treatments.
- Interferon is used to treat some types of cancer and viral infections. It is an immunostimulant drug, a medicine that makes the immune system work better.
- Persons with HIV or AIDS can take combinations of drugs to reduce the amount of HIV in their immune systems and can improve their immunity.
- Patients who are going to have a planned splenectomy should be vaccinated 15 days before the surgery against the bacteria such asStreptococcus pneumonia and Haemophilus influenza.
- Bone marrow transplant is used to treat many immunodeficiency issues.
- Passive immunity (the process of receiving antibodies produced by another person) may sometimes be advised to prevent illness after you have been exposed to certain bacteria or viruses.
There is no known way to prevent congenital immunodeficiency disorders. If you have any family history of immunodeficiency disorders, you might want to have genetic counseling. Practicing safe sexual intercourse and avoiding the sharing of body fluids may help prevent HIV infection and AIDS. Good nutrition diet can prevent acquired immunodeficiency caused by malnutrition.
Immunosuppression medications help to suppress the immune system. Many were originally used in those patients who received the organ transplants to prevent them from rejecting the transplanted organ in their bodies. Moreover, these drugs are now used in the treatment of certain autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. The people with lupus, the immune system mistakenly attack the own tissues of the body. Most immunosuppression drugs work to regulate this attack by interfering with the DNA synthesis. In doing this, these drugs prevent the cells of the immune system from dividing. However, when the cells cannot divide correctly, they die. The immunosuppressive prescribed most commonly for the lupus treatment are mycophenolate (Cellcept), azathioprine (Imuran) and cyclosporine (Neoral, Sandimmune, Gengraf).
Immunosuppressive treatment and medications help to control serious lupus activity that affects the major organs including the brain, kidney, cardiovascular system, and lungs. Before prescribing an immunosuppressive drug, your doctor may prescribe a biopsy of the affected organ system to evaluate the most effective treatment for you. Sometimes, immunosuppressive medications are given in addition to a low dose of steroids needed. Try to keep away from people who are suffering from colds or other illnesses, and do make sure to wash your hands regularly and maintain good personal hygiene. If you are also taking steroid medications or drugs, you may not realize that you are ill because the steroid can suppress your fever symptoms. Contact your doctor immediately as soon as you experience the first signs of any infection or illness.
Types of Immunosuppressive Medications and immunosuppressive drugs list
1. Azathioprine (Imuran)
Azathioprine is an anti-inflammatory immunosuppressive drug that can decrease disability and joint damage in people along with lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and other conditions. In addition, this medication has been proven to effectively improve lupus affecting the liver and kidneys. Azathioprine is “steroid-sparing,” which means it may allow for a reduction of the amount of steroid. As the side effects of steroids increase along with the dosage, this drug promotes a reduction in steroid side effects too.
2. Mycophenolate mofetil (Cellcept)
Mycophenolate mofetil is an immunosuppressive drug that is used especially for lupus patients with kidney disease. It works by stimulating an enzyme in the body - a protein, responsible for certain chemical reactions that are essential in the formation of DNA in the cells. In doing so, Mycophenolate mofetil impairs the immune system function as well. Usually, this medication is given twice a day for a total dose of about 2000-3000 milligrams per day, but this dosage may be reduced. Likewise, Imuran, Cellcept is steroid-sparing, so it allows you and your doctor to reduce the dosage of steroid medications and thus also reduce their side effects.
3. Cyclosporine (Neoral, Sandimmune, Gengraf)-
Cyclosporine is a more potent immunosuppressant that works by blocking the function of cells in the immune system called T-lymphocytes, or “T-cells.” It is prescribed for patients who suffer from inflammation of the kidney caused by lupus, also known as lupus nephritis. However, cyclosporine may be toxic to the kidneys, so the use of this medication is usually reserved for cases in which a patient’s lupus does not respond to other immunosuppressive medications like Cellcept. This drug is also prescribed for people with severe psoriasis, a skin condition that can also cause swelling and pain of the joints and can be helpful in reducing the pain, swelling, and stiffness associated with lupus arthritis.
Talk to your doctor when you face immunosuppressive drugs side effects.