themighty logo

The Dangers of Constantly Being Sick Due to a Weakened Immune System


What it’s like when your immune system isn’t working as it should be is important to talk about, because we can start to think it’s normal. If we’ve always been prone to infection, it’s our normal. But it actually isn’t normal and can be serious.

A doctor recently told me it looks like I may have a congenital immune deficiency. I’ve found out that these deficiencies often go hand in hand with the type of congenital kidney disease I have and the doctor thinks that my being on a high dose of Prednisone for a few months kickstarted the immune deficiency into a higher level. He also said the majority of people who have one never know they have one. That it is often found out during an autopsy.

 

The reason for this is because the amount of infections a person gets might not add up to enough for most doctors to test for it, because it’s not something they commonly test for or look for. Other reasons are that people will go to clinics and have some infections treated by different doctors over the years. Also, some congenital immune deficiencies don’t cause enough infections to cause alarm. The person is getting more than the norm, but not enough to set off alarm bells to their doctor.

I’ve always been very prone to infection. I thought it was normal to get multiple bacterial infections a year. Now, with the amount of infections I get, it’s quite obvious that it’s not normal, because I typically get two infections a month. I’m always on antibiotics, lately. Chronic pneumonia. Chronic dental infections. Chronic kidney infections.

Sometimes, though, I get so used to always having an infection that it starts to feel normal. Right now, though, I’ve had that feeling of normal shattered. My significant other has caught my pneumonia, and I’m seeing firsthand how a person with a working immune system responds to pneumonia. It’s nothing like what I experience. He’s bright red with fever. His fever is really high and Tylenol is needed. He’s sweating and shaking from the fever and chills. His glands are swollen. He is horribly, horribly, obviously sick.

Then there’s me. You wouldn’t know I have pneumonia by looking at me, or by taking my temperature. I look fairly decent. Pale. Easily exhausted. Weak. Wheezing. Coughing. But that’s about it. I’m not red. I’m not feverish. I’m not sweating. My glands aren’t very swollen. I rarely get fevers, even with bilateral pneumonia, and if I do, it’s a low-grade fever. If I have a low-grade fever, that means things are really, really bad.

I often don’t know I have pneumonia until it becomes severe. Several times I’ve gone to the doctor thinking it was an asthma flare-up, but it turned out to be full-blown pneumonia. I only start to get fevers and start feeling sick once I’ve been on antibiotics for a couple of days. Then I realize just how sick I am. That’s pretty dangerous and it scares me, every time, when I finally start to realize just how sick I am.

Even when I’m not on Prednisone, my immune system just doesn’t fight the way it’s supposed to. If you get infections fairly often and you don’t get high fevers for infections that should give a high fever, please ask your doctor if they think you should be tested for a congenital immune deficiency. It’s a pretty big deal and it’s always better to know what you’re dealing with.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock photo via AlexRaths.