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How does having impaired immune function make individuals more susceptible to infections?

The immune system is your body’s defence mechanism, protecting you against viruses, bacteria, and other microorganisms that cause disease.

For most healthy people, the immune system succeeds in doing just that. However, the immune system sometimes overreacts or doesn’t work as it should. In those cases, people become more susceptible to illness and disease.

For individuals with type one diabetes (T1D), immune function may be impaired by –

  • suppression of cytokine production,
  • creating defects in phagocytosis,
  • causing dysfunction of immune cells, and
  • failure to kill microbials.

Any of these can make a person with T1D more susceptible to infections.

The more often a diabetic patient experiences infections caused by the hyperglycaemic environment that favours immune dysfunction (eg. damage to the neutrophil function, depression of the antioxidant system, and humoral immunity), micro- and macro-angiopathies, neuropathy, decrease in the antibacterial activity of urine, gastrointestinal and urinary dysmotility; the greater number of medical interventions are required in these individuals.

Resulting infections can affect all organs and systems – such as foot infections, malignant external otitis, rhinocerebral mucormycosis, and gangrenous cholecystitis.

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