Your Immune System

Your Immune System Articles

Chronic fatigue syndrome

Chronic fatigue syndrome is a condition that involves severe fatigue (often of sudden onset) and other symptoms. The symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome must last for at least 6 months and seriously interfere with a person's ability to function for a diagnosis to be made. Other symptoms (which must also persist for at least 6 months to make the diagnosis) include memory impairment, sore throat, swollen lymph glands, headache, aching muscles and joints, and disrupted sleep. There must also be extreme worsening of symptoms after exertion. Finally, there must be no evidence of a large number of illnesses that can cause fatigue. The cause of chronic fatigue syndrome is not known. There is evidence that mild, nonpermanent abnormalities occur in the brain, that there is a low level of activation of the immune system, and that in many people with this condition, energy metabolism is abnormal. About half of all people with chronic fatigue syndrome also experience a psychiatric illness, typically starting after the symptoms of the illness have begun. More »

Influenza

Influenza, commonly known as the flu, is a respiratory infection caused by an influenza virus. The flu virus enters your body when you breathe in air containing infected droplets, usually generated by someone else's coughing or sneezing. Outbreaks occur nearly every winter, and vary in severity depending on that year's strain of the influenza virus. If you are like most people, you have had the flu at some point in your life. You may have felt awful for a week or so, but you got over it. Some people, though, develop serious complications such as pneumonia. Some even die from the flu. Those most at risk for complications include infants, people over age 60, and those with heart disease, lung disease, or chronic diseases that weaken the immune system, such as diabetes. The influenza virus can cause severe pneumonia. It can also weaken the lungs, allowing harmful bacteria to take over and cause bacterial pneumonia. This can happen even to healthy young adults. More »

Kaposi's sarcoma

Kaposi's sarcoma is a type of cancer caused by the human herpes virus 8. It appears as red or purple patches on the skin, mouth, lungs, liver, or digestive system. Kaposi's sarcoma was a rare and relatively harmless disease until the AIDS epidemic began. An aggressive form of the disease, AIDS-related Kaposi's sarcoma, occurs in people with severely weakened immune systems. It is now the most common type of Kaposi's sarcoma. There are four main types of Kaposi's sarcoma: More »

Leukemia

Leukemia is a type of cancer that harms the body's ability to make healthy blood cells. It starts in the bone marrow, the soft center of various bones. This is where new blood cells are made. There are three main types of blood cells: Leukemia usually refers to cancer of the white blood cells. It tends to affect one of the two major types of white blood cells: lymphocytes and granulocytes. These cells circulate through the bloodstream and the lymph system to help the body fight off viruses, infections, and other invading organisms. Leukemia arising from cancerous lymphocytes is called lymphocytic leukemia; leukemia from cancerous granulocytes is called myeloid or myelogenous leukemia. Leukemia is either acute (comes on suddenly) or chronic (lasts a long time). Acute leukemia affects adults and children. Chronic leukemia rarely affects children. More »

How does cold weather affect your health?

Cold weather brings a number of health risks for older adults. Close indoor contact with other people puts one at risk for cold and flu. Prolonged exposure to even mild cold puts one at risk for hypothermia. A lack of moisture in the air can make skin dry. And cold weather, which can narrow blood vessels, can increase the risk of heart attack. To fight back against these risks, people can wash their hands frequently, bundle up when going outdoors, use an oil-based skin lotion, shower in lukewarm water, and avoid intense outdoor activity. More »

Vaccinations: Myth vs. reality

Vaccines are just as important for preventing disease now that we’re older as they were when we were children. Yet many older adults fail to get the vaccines they need to protect themselves against diseases such as the flu, pneumonia, and shingles. More »

When You Visit Your Doctor - After Hodgkin's Disease Treatment

Have you had fevers, heavy sweating at night, weight loss, itchy skin, or swollen lymph nodes? Do you have pain in any of your bones? Do you have a cough? Are you fatigued? Do you get lightheaded? Do you bruise easily or have nosebleeds? Do your gums bleed when you brush your teeth? Have you had any recent infections? Do you have a cough? Do you have sinus congestion? Do you have nasal discharge? Do you know when to seek medical attention for signs of infection? Do you know that you still need to practice birth control (both men and women)? Infertility is uncommon with newer chemotherapy regimens. If you are a woman and have undergone early menopause, have you considered hormone replacement therapy? Are you short of breath at rest or with minimal exertion? Do you get chest pain or pressure with exertion? Do you have swelling in your legs? Do you know that chemotherapy and radiation can increase your risk of developing certain other cancers? Are you up-to-date on all of your cancer screening tests? If you are a woman, have you discussed the need for regular mammograms and breast examinations with your doctor? Are you gaining weight? Are you constipated? Are you always cold? Do you have dry skin? Neck veins Heart Lungs Abdomen (for enlargement or tenderness of the liver or spleen) Bones and spine (looking for areas of tenderness) Skin (looking for skin cancers) Lymph Nodes (neck, axilla, elbow, groin) Blood tests for complete blood counts, kidney and liver function tests CT scans of the chest and abdomen   More »