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Definition of Immunocompromised

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Updated June 04, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Definition: A state in which a person's immune system is weakened or absent.

Individuals who are immunocompromised are less capable of battling infections because of an immune response that is not properly functioning. Examples of immunocompromised people are those that have HIV or AIDS, are pregnant, or are undergoing chemotherapy or radiation therapy for cancer. Other conditions, such as certain cancers and genetic disorders, can also cause a person to become immunocompromised. Immunocompromised individuals can sometimes be prone to more serious infections and/or complications than healthy people. They are also more prone to getting opportunistic infections, which are infections that do not normally afflict healthy individuals.

Causes for Immunodeficiency:

  • Genetic - inherited genetic defects
  • Acquired - infections, such as HIV, and certain cancers, including leukemia, lymphoma, or multiple myleoma
  • Chronic diseases - such as end stage renal disease and dialysis, diabetes, cirrhosis
  • Medications - such as steroids, chemotherapy, radiation, immunosuppressive post-transplant medications
  • Physical State - such as pregnancy

It is important to note that not all immunodeficiencies result in the same risk for infection.

Pronunciation: im-YOU-noh-KOM-pruh-mized
Also Known As: immunodeficient
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