Changes in the immune function related to aging

  1. Inflammation
    Functional change: there is a probalble defect in neutrophil function

    Nursing implication: Neutrophil counts may be normal, bur activity is reduced or impaired

    Functional change: Leukocytosis does not occur during episodes of acute infection

    Nursing implications: patients may have an infection but not show expected changes in white blood cell counts

    Functional change: older persons may not have a fever during inflammatory or infectious episodes

    Nursing implications: Not only is there potential loss of protection through inflammation, but minor infections may be overlooked until the patient becomes severely infected or septic
  2. Antibody-mediated immunity
    Functional change: the total number of colony-forming B-lymphocytes and the ability of these cells to mature into antibody-secreting cells are diminished

    Nursing implications: Older adults are less able to make new antibodies in response to the presence of new antigens. Thus they should receive immunizations, such as "flu shots" and the pneumococcal vaccination.

    Functional change: there is a decline in natural antibodies, decreased response to antigens, and reduction in the amount of time the antibody respose is maintained

    Nursing implications: older adults may not have sufficient antibodies present to provide protection when they are re-exposed to microorganisms against which they have already genterated antibodies. Thus older patients need to avoid people with viral infections and need to recieve booster shots for old vaccinations and immunizations
  3. Cell-mediated immunity
    Functional change: Thymic activity decreases with aging, and the number of circilating T-lymphocytes decreases

    Nursing implications: skin test for tuberculosis may be falsely negitive.

    older patients are more at risk for bacterial and fungal infections, especially on the skin and mucous membranes, in the respiratory tract, and in the genitourinary tract
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Changes in the immune function related to aging
Changes in the immune function related to age