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Immunosuppression – What is it, Types of Medicines and Side Effects of Immunosuppression – Zdrowie Wprost

Immunosuppression - What is it, Types of Medicines and Side Effects of Immunosuppression - Zdrowie Wprost

Immunosuppression is characterized by a significant decrease or complete inhibition of the body’s natural immune response, which is necessary to protect it from, inter alia: microbes. Natural defense mechanisms, for which the immune system is responsible, allow you to effectively fight various types of diseases, but they are not always an ally in the treatment of especially difficult ones. Immunosuppressants are a group of drugs designed to suppress the mechanisms of the immune system. Immunosuppressive drugs are used, inter alia, in the treatment of transplant patients.

Immunosuppression aims to suppress the immune response of cellular and humoral types. In a simplified way – this condition may include the pursuit of deficiencies in individual antibodies and cells of the immune system, the task of which is, among other things, the production of cytokines.

The immunosuppressive therapy currently in use includes, among other things, the administration of drugs appropriately selected for the patient’s health, as well as the use of X-rays to suppress the immune response. Each method of immunosuppression has its advantages and disadvantages, so it is necessary to adjust immunosuppressive therapy to the individual patient’s needs.


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It should be noted that although immunosuppression supports the treatment process, for example reducing the risk of transplant rejection, it also has a negative effect on the body, because people whose immune system is not working properly are highly susceptible to various types of infections. Therefore, undergoing immunosuppressive therapy requires special care to reduce the risks associated, for example, with seasonal infections. Immunosuppressive use may also be associated with several side effects. Other complications of immunosuppressive therapy include tissue damage and an increased risk of certain cancers. Immunosuppressive therapy is used, for example, in oncology and transplantation, and is often the only effective treatment available in autoimmune diseases.

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What is immunosuppression? – Principles of Operation Mechanism

The human immune system is designed to protect against diseases that threaten health. To this end, it activates defense mechanisms, in which a major role is played by, among other things, various classes of antibodies and T-lymphocytes: sometimes it is necessary to completely restrict or inhibit the body’s natural defenses for therapeutic purposes. Then immunosuppressants and other methods are used, such as:

  • Surgical procedures for organs involved in the body’s immune response, such as the thymus gland,
  • X-rays, an agent that physically suppresses the immune system.

Immunosuppression methods – advantages and disadvantages of individual solutions

Inhibition of antibody production and immune cell activity is used in many areas of medicine. It is primarily oncology and organ transplantation, but immunosuppressive drugs are also used to fight increasingly diagnosed autoimmune diseases. Autoimmune disorders are a special group of diseases that develop as a result of an incorrect immune response.

The risk of complications with immunosuppressive therapy is associated with a number of side effects of immunosuppressive drugs. When choosing immunosuppressive drugs, both the benefits and risks of their use are taken into account in order to reduce the burden on the patient’s body.

Most often, immunosuppressive therapy is used to avoid transplant rejection. The use of immunosuppression is necessary, inter alia, after a heart transplant, as the body may treat the donated organ as a foreign body, and seek to destroy it through its natural defense mechanisms. Immunosuppressants are also used, inter alia, as one of the treatment modalities in the treatment of cancer. As mentioned earlier, the use of immunosuppressive drugs also allows effective relief of symptoms of autoimmune diseases, which are associated with cells of the immune system that are resistant to healthy cells.

Extensive research is conducted to reduce the risks associated with the use of immunosuppressants and to adjust treatment according to the individual needs of the patient. This may enable, inter alia, the use of modern genetic techniques.

Immunosuppressants Types of Immunosuppressants

The group of immunosuppressants includes, for example:

  • steroids (cortisone),
  • cytostatic drugs,
  • Monoclonal antibodies.

One of the long-used immunosuppressants is glucocorticoids. This was the first time that glucocorticosteroids had been used in a kidney transplant patient. It happened in 1963. Currently, glucocorticoids are used as immunosuppressive drugs both in organ transplantation and in the treatment of autoimmune and chronic inflammatory diseases that accompany, among other things, allergic reactions.

Cytological suppressive drugs are immunosuppressive drugs used in oncology and organ transplantation, as well as in the treatment of autoimmune diseases. This group of immunosuppressive drugs includes: cyclophosphamide and cyclosporine.

Monoclonal and polyclonal antibodies are another group of immunosuppressive drugs. They are used, inter alia, in transplant patients, and are also used in the treatment of some types of cancer.

Immunosuppression in the treatment of disease – when is it used?

Sometimes the use of immunosuppressive drugs is necessary not only in patients after transplantation, such as the heart, kidneys, liver and other organs, but also in rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn’s disease, and in the treatment of particularly aggressive neoplastic diseases, including leukemia, sarcoma, Hodgkin’s disease and endometrial cancer.

Immunosuppressants are also used in the treatment of diseases such as systemic lupus erythematosus, atopic dermatitis, articular psoriasis (psoriasis), pemphigus, and ulcerative enteritis.

Side Effects – Immunosuppression

Due to the mechanism of action of immunosuppressants, various complications may occur in patients. Side effects of immunosuppression include: frequent bacterial and viral infections, fungal infections and disturbances in body functions, which lead to a deterioration in the general condition and the appearance of unpleasant diseases, for example, of the gastrointestinal tract.

Moreover, you should be aware of the side effects of immunosuppression, such as an increased risk of developing certain diseases, such as diabetes and oncological diseases. Serious complications after using immunosuppressants are primarily liver damage and kidney damage.


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