What Does It Mean to Be Immunocompromised?

Health Education
February 20, 2023
3 min read
What Does It Mean to Be Immunocompromised?

One frequently discussed topic during the COVID-19 pandemic was the particular risk the virus posed to immunocompromised people. If you hadn’t heard the term before, you may be wondering, what does it mean to be immunocompromised? How can being immunocompromised impact your life? What steps can you take to ensure safety? The answers to these and more questions follow.

What Does Immunocompromised Mean?

So, what does immunocompromised mean? 

The term itself is quite broad. Generally speaking, it refers to individuals with weak or weakened immune systems that make them more vulnerable to infections. Being immunocompromised usually means a person is suffering from another disease or underlying condition impacting their immune health.

It combines the prefix “immuno-” being of the immune system, with the word “compromised.” Being immunocompromised makes a person exceptionally vulnerable to common infections and requires more vigilance against uncommon ones.


An immunocompromised person may also be suffering from immunodeficiency. For most immunocompromised people, this deficiency is acquired as a result of another condition or treatment. There is a wide range of conditions associated with immunodeficiency, including cancer and AIDS. Some people, however, are also born with compromised immune systems as a result of genetic conditions.

Age and External Factors

People can be immunocompromised for many reasons. Age, the presence of a metabolic disorder like diabetes, a side-effect of cancer treatments, or cancer itself can create immunodeficiency. For cancer patients, this most often is because their white blood cells are impaired in either number or function. Chemotherapy treatments can also intentionally reduce immune function before a stem cell transplant, making them immunocompromised.

What Defines a Person as Immunocompromised? Are There Levels to Being Immunocompromised?

There’s no scale or objective standard for determining whether or not a person is immunocompromised. Some professionals use a count of white blood cells called neutrophils as an indicator of risk. One such study done by Dr. Gerald Bodley showed an increased risk to patients whose neutrophil count dropped below 1000 cells/microliter. Another white blood cell, the T-cell, can be used to show how immunocompromised AIDS patients are.

Treatment Options for Immunocompromised Diseases

There are several courses of treatment for immunocompromised diseases. In cancer patients, the primary focus is the treatment and remission of cancer. However, as part of that recovery, people are given donor white blood cells called granulocytes. These eventually help replenish a healthy immune cell count for some immunocompromised people. 

For many immunocompromised people, the best options are preventative ones, especially with ongoing conditions. Wearing a mask and avoiding sick people are activities many of us have engaged in during the pandemic. If you’re immunocompromised, COVID-19 is just one of the diseases you need to be aware of.

Immunocompromised patients may want to ask their doctors about which activities pose risk to their health. Even a hobby as innocuous as gardening might put immunocompromised people at a greater risk for exposure to fungal infection. With a bit of extra awareness of these potential risks, it’s still possible for immunocompromised people to live fully.

Receive Medical Professionalism from BASS Medical Group

Having a compromised immune system doesn’t preclude anyone from living a full or active life. By taking some common sense preventative measures, immunocompromised individuals can lead as normal of a life as possible. This is especially true for those recovering from a range of immunocompromising illnesses.

If your immune system is compromised, it’s time to seek the best medical care available. BASS Medical is home to professional and compassionate board-certified specialists. Our providers are here to help with every step of your treatment and recovery. Check out our COVID-19 resources to see tips, information, and other preventive steps you can take.