Two (possibly stupid) questions about the immune system?

I have psoriasis, which I have been told is the result of an 'overactive' immune system. Treatments for this condition include an injection (Stelara™) that targets the immune system, making it weaker.

1) Does the fact that my immune system is greater mean that I have a greater than average protection against viruses and bacteria? Or is the 'overactivity' of the immune system just one component of the system, that doesn't necessarily boost my overall immunity to infection?

2) Would abstaining from certain things that are known as essential to the immune system--such as Vitamin C--be helpful at reducing my symptoms? (I won't really do this, I just want to know if it is possible).

Answers which link to peer-reviewed medical literature will be most appreciated. Thanks in advance.

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  • 9 years ago
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    Hi,

    I really don't feel like looking for peer-reviewed literature, because that would be a pretty big undergraduate project (I see your name is 'prof'). Me, I'm just too lazy :)

    But, things like psoriasis, eczema, allergies, hives, etc, are often referred to as "overactive" immune system. That is not technically true. What happens is, your immune system targets your own organs, instead of real intruders, by mistake. So in allergies, you get a pollen speck, and your immune system thinks it's a horrible worm and attacks. In rheumatoid arthritis, the body (ie the immune system) attacks the joints.

    In the link below, if you go to Pathophysiology, you will see a very nice and detailed explanation of the current consensus on psoriasis. This article has been summarized from peer-reviewed articles, and you can see the links at the end of the article.

    To summarize it: your skin cells are somehow exposed to the immune system in an unfamiliar fashion, so it thinks the cells are an intruder. So the body mounts a response to those cells, and starts attacking. You can get arthritis and nail issues as well with psoriasis, for the same reason.

    No, abstaining from those things won't help. Your body already has antibodies to your skin. We do have pretty rough treatments for autoimmune conditions, which do reduce the action of the immune system, but that can lead to nasty diseases. People on autoimmune suppression have to take prophylactic antibacterial medication, and possibly antifungal, and be on steroids which cause a slew of issues on their own.

    To summarize: try to avoid immune suppressing medications. You would be LESS protection from viruses and bacteria. If you do need to use immune suppressants, it's ok too, most people do relatively well on it.

  • Steve
    Lv 5
    9 years ago

    Check out the Mayo Clinic site. You can be confident they'll have good answers whereas this forum ain't necessarily the best place to get good answers.

    1) It *could* mean that it could try to attack things it shouldn't be attacking. The immune system is known to do that.

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