Autoimmunity - an Introduction
Autoimmunity - The Enemy within our Bodies
Acting as a protective shield, our immune system wards off invaders like bacteria and viruses. If it is intact and in working order, this defence system activates the various immune cells that can rapidly and effectively overcome any threat from a viral or bacterial attack.
However, when it turns against the body’s own tissue, the consequences are fatal: the cells of our immune system get out of control. They turn against the body itself and begin to destroy healthy tissue, leading to impaired function or even complete failure of the affected organ. This results in autoimmune disease often causing severe and life-threatening complications.
Rheumatoid arthritis for example leads to progressive destruction of the joints. Defensive cells of the immune system first attack the synovial membranes in the joints. The synovial membrane begins to grow and generates substances that destroy cartilage and bone.
Rheumatoid arthritis usually begins subtly, with swelling, pain, and problems with movement of the finger joints. The bones of the joint slip out of their normal positions and the joints deform and lose their function. As a clinical picture the characteristic deformations of the rheumatic hand become visible:
- Focus Rheumatology: State-of-the-art diagnostics and early therapy (PDF-Download). In: Up-to-Date 2007, Publisher Orgentec Diagnostika, Mainz, Germany.