Infectious Diseases

Causes and Risk Factors for Recurrent Infections



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Infections are diseases caused by organisms which enter an animal host and colonize within the host tissues to initiate a pathological process. All human beings are susceptible to infections, though many such infections will resolve without any complications through natural means. Furthermore, once a person develops an infection, it is relatively rare for them to suffer from the same infection repeatedly, especially within a short period time. Thus, the development of such recurrent infections is not considered ‘normal’ and any such instance should be closely investigated in order to find an underlying cause.

What protects a person from infections?

Although complete protection from pathogenic organisms or germs is not at all possible, all healthy animals posses mechanisms that will inhibit such organisms to a certain extent.

Among these mechanisms, the skin and the mucosal surfaces of the mouth, nose, respiratory tract, and the intestines could be named as some of the first line defenses. If breeched, the organisms can enter the body's tissues and such tissues may provide adequate breeding grounds for these organisms to colonize.

Once the pathogenic organisms invade the tissues or blood, the body will launch an immune reaction, which will fight against the invading organisms both chemically and through cellular processes. An important contribution made by these immune processes is the ability to ‘memorize’ the invading pathogen and act early when the same pathogen tries to invade the body at a different time. This would mean that it is difficult for the same infective organism to cause an infection on the same person, especially within a short space of time.

Apart from these mechanisms, there are other methods which can protect a person from incoming pathogenic organisms.

When do pathogenic organisms cause recurrent infections?

If the organisms can creep-in through breeched defenses such as in the cases of injured skin and damaged, irritated or edematous mucosal surfaces, they can safely enter the inside tissues and start colonizing when they reach suitable destinations. If a person is susceptible to developing such breeched surfaces repeatedly, they are more susceptible to developing recurrent infections as well.

Furthermore, when the person’s immune system does not function adequately, the fight against infections may not be as effective as when the immune system is in full swing. This could lead to recurrent infections as well as prolonged infections as it takes a long time for the body to get rid of the infective organisms. At the same time, such persons are more likely to develop complications than others who get infected with the same organism.

Apart from these instances, increased exposure, environmental hazards, novel strains of pathogenic organisms, and other factors could also contribute towards recurrent infections.

Who is more susceptible to developing recurrent infections?

When looking at the reasons for being susceptible towards recurrent infections, the elderly and the very young are more likely than others to develop the same. The reasons are that very young children do not have a mature immune system whereas elderly immune systems may become disrupted due to various reasons.

Furthermore, patients who have a suppressed immunity, such as the ones who are suffering from HIV/AIDS and those who take immuno-suppressive medications will often find themselves vulnerable to recurrent infections. Thus, such persons require antibiotic treatment at the earliest stage of an infection.

People with eczematous skin diseases, and those who are suffering from chronic lung diseases could also be noted as increasingly susceptible towards recurrent infections. Suffering from allergic rhinitis or similar diseases could also raise the risk of contracting infections every so often.


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