Heat shock proteins (Hsps) can be found in two forms, intracellular and extracellular. The intracellular Hsps are induced as a result of stress and have been found to be cytoprotective in many instances due to their chaperone functions in protein folding and in protein degradation. The origin and role of extracellular Hsps is less clear. Although they were suspected originally to be released from damaged cells (necrosis), their presence in most normal individuals rather suggests that they have regulatory functions in circulation. As immunodominant molecules, Hsps can stimulate the immune system, leading to the production of autoantibodies recognizing epitopes shared by microbial and human Hsps. Thus, extracellular Hsps can influence the inflammatory response as evidenced by the production of inflammatory cytokines. Antibodies to Hsps have been found under normal conditions but seem to be increased in certain stresses and diseases. Such antibodies could regulate the inflammatory response positively or negatively. Here, we review the literature on the findings of antibodies to Hsps in situations of environmental or occupational stress and in a number of diseases and discuss their possible significance for the diagnosis, prognosis, or pathogenesis of these diseases.