What does self-limiting mean?

Updated February 21, 2017

Self-limiting is a medical term that may be applied to many common conditions or diseases that are regularly seen at doctors' offices and in surgeries and hospitals. It can also be applied to much rarer conditions.


A self-limiting disease or condition is one that usually stops or ends without therapy or assistance.


According to author Herbert Shelton, most acute diseases, such as typhoid fever, pneumonia, diphtheria, colds and tonsillitis, are self-limiting. All of these illness must "run their course" in order for the body to repair itself with its own immune system.

Medical Intervention

Even if a disease is self-limiting, it does not mean that no medical intervention is necessary. Medical attention will assist in relieving discomfort or pain, keeping the patient strong enough to fight the disease and boost his immune system. Hospital treatment still may be necessary, depending on the disease.

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About the Author

Zoe Van-de-Velde began writing in 1990 and contributes to eHow and Answerbag. Van-de-Velde has a Bachelor of Arts & Humanities in media and English from DeMontfort University. She is currently studying for a Master of Arts in creative media arts specializing in digital photography at the London South Bank University.