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What Does a Clinical Immunologist Do?

A clinical immunologist's research can lead to treating different immune system issues.
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  • Written By: N. Madison
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 20 July 2014
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A clinical immunologist is a person trained to research and investigate the immune system to diagnose and treat patients. A clinical immunologist investigates, diagnoses, and treats allergies, autoimmune problems, deficiencies of the immune system, and the suppression of the immune system. Additionally, some clinical immunologists may dedicate a good deal of their time to teaching others.

Typically, a clinical immunologist works to investigate, diagnose, and treat people who have allergies. For example, a person with this title may deal with people who have food or drug allergies as well as those who are allergic to animals and insect stings. A person with this title may also deal with patients who have hives, asthma, or conditions such as eczema. The types of allergic conditions a clinical immunologist handles may range from minor conditions such as hay fever to such major reactions as anaphylaxis, which is a life-threatening allergic reaction.

A clinical immunologist may also handle cases in which a person has an autoimmune condition. An autoimmune condition occurs when a person’s own immune system attacks his body. In such a case, a person’s immune system doesn’t see certain tissues as part of the body. Instead, the immune system sees these body tissues as foreign and harmful. Some examples of autoimmune conditions a clinical immunologist might investigate and treat include multiple sclerosis, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis.

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Clinical immunologists may also research and treat immunosuppression. Immunosuppression occurs when a person’s immune system functioning is reduced. This is a common problem among people who are being treated for serious illnesses such as cancer as well as individuals who have had organ transplants. Organ recipients usually have to take immunosuppressant drugs for the rest of their lives in order to prevent their bodies from rejecting the donated organs.

Immunodeficiencies are also among the conditions a clinical immunologist may assess and treat. When a person has an immunodeficiency, his immune system doesn’t function as it should. As a result of this, an affected person usually has an increased number of infections. In fact, a person with an immunodeficiency may have a difficult time fighting even minor infections.

When many people think of immunodeficiencies an immunologist might investigate and treat, they think of conditions that are acquired, such as acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS). Usually, a clinical immunologist works with patients who have a variety of immunodeficiencies, however. This means he may handle immunodeficiencies a person has inherited or developed as a result of another disease or condition. Additionally, he may investigate and treat patients who have immunodeficiencies brought on by medical treatment.

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