TOWSON, Md., April 1, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Approximately 250,000 people are diagnosed with primary immunodeficiency diseases in the United States, but thousands more go undetected and untreated. These diseases are chronic illnesses caused by hereditary or genetic defects in the immune system in which part of the body's immune system is missing or does not function properly. April is National Primary Immunodeficiency Awareness Month, a time when the Immune Deficiency Foundation (IDF) works to educate the public about the symptoms of these diseases and what resources are available for patients. Founded in 1980, IDF is the national patient organization dedicated to improving the diagnosis, treatment and quality of life of persons with primary immunodeficiency diseases through advocacy, education and research. There are more than 185 different primary immunodeficiency diseases, and they affect people differently. These diseases are not contagious. For some, the body fails to produce any or enough antibodies to fight infection, while for others; the cellular defenses against infection fail to work properly. Throughout their lives, people with primary immunodeficiencies are more susceptible to infections, endure recurrent health problems and often develop serious and debilitating illnesses. "Our National Awareness Month is an important opportunity for our organization to educate and inform the public about primary immunodeficiency diseases, which hopefully leads to early diagnosis and appropriate treatment for people who are suffering from persistent infections, but have not yet been diagnosed," said Marcia Boyle, IDF President & Founder, who founded the organization more than three decades ago after her then infant son, John, was diagnosed with the disease. "April is a time when we mobilize our supporters and patients to raise awareness in their own communities through grassroots outreach and by contacting the local media," she added. "It is amazing to see how patients sharing their individual stories each April results in a significant number of new diagnoses of primary immunodeficiency diseases and leads to people getting the help they need."