The immune system distinguishes self from nonself and eliminates potentially harmful nonself molecules and cells from the body. The immune system also has the capacity to recognize and destroy abnormal cells that derive from host tissues. Any molecule capable of being recognized by the immune system is considered an antigen (Ag).
Allergic (including atopic) and other hypersensitivity disorders are inappropriate or exaggerated immune reactions to foreign antigens. Inappropriate immune reactions include those that are misdirected against intrinsic body components (self), leading to autoimmune disorders. This topic focuses on type I hypersensitivity reactions.
Immunodeficiency disorders are associated with or predispose patients to various complications, including infections, autoimmune disorders, and lymphomas and other cancers. Primary immunodeficiencies are genetically determined and can be hereditary; secondary immunodeficiencies are acquired and much more common.