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9February 14, 2010What happened to my immune system?

Posted Feb 14 2010 12:00am

There are days when my immune system does not have any idea what it should do. These are the days when I feel my worst, when I wish I remembered days that I actually felt healthy. It seems like it has been quite some time since I felt healthy, that is assuming I ever was healthy.

I think we are a long ways from knowing why some people have immune systems that cannot distinguish healthy cells from sick ones. The only thing that scientists really know is that autoimmune diseases are not contagious. There are scientists, however, who think that our genes and environmental factors play a role. Certain genes can make a person at higher risk for developing an autoimmune disease but those genes don’t come into play until something triggers the immune system into haywire mode.

In healthy people, the immune defenses protect the cells from outside invaders. With persons who develop autoimmunity, the immune system mistakes the body’s own cells instead of working towards protecting them. There is a school of thought that links certain environmental agents as triggers to autoimmunity. Because environmental triggers only pose a small risk, the gene factor is important to the development of autoimmunity.

Add medications that suppress the immune system to the mix, and you have a ticking time bomb. I am going around six months with Humira and while I have noticed an improvement in my condition, I worry about the side effects having a suppressed immune system. It is actually somewhat scary but the only options I have if I want to keep taking Humira are (1) wear a mask when out in public; (2) don’t go out in public, or (3) pay attention to how I am feeling on any given day.

With Humira, the body becomes more susceptible to developing an upper respiratory infections and even more susceptible to colds and the flu. Despite taking the flu shot this winter, this is my third time getting sick leaving me to wonder whether Humira is worth taking. Most importantly, what happened to my immune system? With RA, there are trade-offs. One part of the body feels better and another feels worse. There is never a winning scenario for an RA’er.

Well, it is time for me to go back to reality and nurse my health. It looks like I will be skipping the Humira shot this week.

I just might give Dr. House a call. Either he will cure me or give me something to knock me out for several days.


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