Medical Definition of Autoimmune

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Reviewed on 12/11/2018

Autoimmune: Pertaining to autoimmunity, a misdirected immune response that occurs when the immune system goes awry and attacks the body itself.

Autoimmunity is present to some extent in everyone and is usually harmless. However, autoimmunity can cause a broad range of human illnesses, known collectively as autoimmune diseases. Autoimmune diseases occur when there is progression from benign autoimmunity to pathogenic autoimmunity. This progression is determined by genetic influences as well as environmental triggers.

Autoimmunity is evidenced by the presence of autoantibodies (antibodies directed against the person who produced them) and T cells that are reactive with host antigens.

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Reviewed on 12/11/2018