Diagnosis & Treatment:

Autoimmune Terminology To Know For Your Next Doctor's Appointment

Damiana Chiavolini, PhD December 12, 2023

While having guidance and support from your doctor is essential, taking control of your own health is important for planning and making informed decisions about your autoimmune disease. Being on board with the terms used to describe autoimmunity and specific diseases during your doctor’s appointments can help you receive the care you need as you ask questions to recognize signs and symptoms, understand the reasons behind testing, and navigate treatment options.

GENERAL MEDICAL TERMS

Understanding the meaning of basic terms can greatly boost your confidence as you discuss your autoimmune disease, potential complications, and best management strategies with your doctor.

Disease, condition:
Comorbidity:
Symptom, sign, syndrome:
Trigger:
Infection, inflammation:
Flare-ups:

AUTOIMMUNE DISEASE-SPECIFIC TERMS

Taking the time to become familiar with the terminology that is more specific to autoimmunity can help you understand more about disease features, diagnostic testing, available treatments, and experimental therapies.

Immune dysregulation:
Antibodies, antigens, autoantibodies, autoantigens, antigen-presenting cells:
Cytokine, Cytokine Storm:
Lymphocytes:
IgE, IgG, IgM:

Autoimmune disease testing:

After a physical exam, your healthcare provider will order additional tests to diagnose your disease depending on your signs and symptoms. Terms to keep in mind include autoantibody tests, antinuclear antibody (ANA), complete blood count (CBC), C-reactive protein (CRP), enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), and erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) (7). Take note of these terms and abbreviations and ask for more details about the ones your doctor recommends. Always ask questions about what they mean and how they work.

Some common autoimmune disease tests include:

Antinuclear antibody (ANA) test
C-Reactive Protein (CRP) test
ELISA assay
Erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) test

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Sources

  1. Article Sources
    1. Bauman, Robert W. (2017). Microbiology with Diseases by Body System (book). Pearson.

    2. Overview of Autoimmune Diseases. National Institute of Allergy and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases.

    3. Autoimmune Diseases. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.

    4. Critical, Stable, or Fair: Defining Patient Conditions. WebMD.

    5. Eaton, W. W., Nguyen, T. Q., Pedersen, M. G., Mortensen, P. B., & Rose, N. R. (2020). Comorbidity of autoimmune diseases: A visual presentation. Autoimmunity reviews, 19(10), 102638. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.autrev.2020.102638

    6. Glossary of Autoimmunity Terms. Johns Hopkins Medicine, Pathology.

    7. Antigen-Presenting Cells. Anatomy and Physiology (book), section 20.3E, LibreTexts.

    8. Zhang, J. M., & An, J. (2007). Cytokines, inflammation, and pain. International anesthesiology clinics, 45(2), 27–37. https://doi.org/10.1097/AIA.0b013e318034194e

    9. Fajgenbaum, D. C., & June, C. H. (2020). Cytokine Storm. The New England Journal of Medicine, 383(23), 2255–2273. https://doi.org/10.1056/NEJMra2026131

    10. B lymphocyte. National Institutes of Health.

    11. T lymphocyte. Science Direct.

    12. Janeway CA Jr, Travers P, Walport M, et al. Immunobiology: The Immune System in Health and Disease. 5th edition. New York: Garland Science; 2001. The production of IgE, from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK27117/  

    13. Azar, A. IgG Deficiencies. Science Direct.

    14. Moini, J., Badolato, C., & Ahangari, R. (2020). Chapter 3 – Immunology. In Epidemiology of Endocrine Tumors (pp. 55–82). book, Elsevier. 

    15. ANA Test. Mayo Clinic.

    16. C-reactive protein Test. Mayo Clinic.

    17. Alhajj M, Farhana A (2023). Enzyme Linked Immunosorbent Assay. StatPearls Publishing.

    18. Tishkowski K, Gupta V (2023). Erythrocyte Sedimentation Rate. StatPearls Publishing.

About the Author

Damiana Chiavolini, MS, PhD is a freelance writer who specializes in medical and life science topics. As a trained researcher, she authored journal articles in the areas of infection and immunity and wrote booklets and book chapters about different diseases. As a professional communicator, she writes feature articles for magazines and other publications and produces content for higher education platforms. Damiana is also an experienced academic editor, microbiology educator, writing coach, and fragrance blogger. She is a contributing member of the American Medical Writers Association and the immediate past-president of the association’s Southwest Chapter.

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