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Chapter: Essentials of Anatomy and Physiology: The Lymphatic System and Immunity

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Aging and the Lymphatic System

The aging of the lymphatic system is apparent in the decreased efficiency of immune responses.

AGING AND THE LYMPHATIC SYSTEM

 

The aging of the lymphatic system is apparent in the decreased efficiency of immune responses. Elderly people are more likely than younger ones to develop shingles, when an aging immune system cannot keep the chickenpox virus dormant. They are also more susceptible to infections such as influenza and to what are called secondary infections, such as pneumonia following a case of the flu. Vaccines for both of these are available, and elderly people should be encouraged to get them. Elderly people should also be sure to get a tetanus-diphtheria booster every 10 years.

 

Autoimmune disorders are also more common among older people; the immune system mistakenly perceives a body tissue as foreign and initiates its des-truction. Rheumatoid arthritis and myasthenia gravis are examples of autoimmune diseases. The incidence of cancer is also higher. Malignant cells that once might have been quickly destroyed remain alive and proliferate.


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