Immunology is the study and treatment of the immune system. This system is a complex arrangement that protects the body from foreign material and disease. If cells, viruses, or bacteria get past your skin and into your body where they can cause damage, the immune system works to find and destroy them.
If your immune system does not work effectively due to a disorder or infection, you may be treated by a clinical immunologist. Immunologists work to keep immune systems functioning as well as possible and to keep patients with weakened immune systems healthy. Some of the conditions an immunologist might treat include:
HIV / AIDS
Organ transplants, where the immune system must be suppressed to prevent infection
Primary immunodeficiencies, a number of rare disorders that make patients unusually susceptible to infections
The field of immunology has a great deal of overlap with other specialties that deal with the immune system. Specialists in immunology may, for example, treat patients with allergies or autoimmune disorders and vice-versa. The specialties related to clinical immunology are rheumatology, allergy-immunology, and infectious disease:
If the immune system is overreacting and attacking one’s own body instead of foreign material, the result can be inflammation and autoimmune disorders. Some diseases caused by an overactive immune system include rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and fibromyalgia. Overactive immune disorders are most often treated by a rheumatologist.
If the immune system is misfiring and reacting to harmless material, the result is allergies or asthma. Sometimes these immune responses are so extreme that they can be life-threatening. Severe allergies can be treated by an allergist-immunologist.
Sometimes infections overwhelm the immune system. A physician who studies how the immune system responds to infection and how infections spread is called an infectious disease specialist. Infectious disease specialists may treat such serious illnesses as MRSA, lyme disease, or tuberculosis. Of all the immunology-related specialties, there is the most overlap between infectious disease management and clinical immunology because patients with weakened immune systems are more likely to catch diseases.
Immunologists treat and protect your body’s own defense system so that you can stay as healthy as possible.