An incorrectly programmed immune system can cause a number of joint diseases. Sometimes our immune system falsely identifies parts of joints as bacterial infections and attacks them by sending immune system cells into the joints where they cause inflammation.

This process can lead to conditions such as arthritis or ankylosing spondylitis (AS), which in advanced stages causes the spine to fuse. This severe disease is estimated to affect 1.5 million people in Germany alone, many of whom are unaware of their condition because the initial symptoms are mild. The onset of rheumatoid arthritis can take place at an early age. The immune system of affected individuals attacks and destroys joint cartilage due to 3 (often genetically determined) programming error. In severe cases, the cartilage may be destroyed completely, causing the bones of the joint to rub against one another. This rubbing shortens the bones of the joints, causing them to slowly stop functioning. Patients’ mobility is increasingly impaired, their joints deform and fuse together. In severe cases, patients can expect increasing disablement and eventual invalidity. Rheumatoid arthritis cannot be cured, but the earlier it is diagnosed and treated, the better its progress can be delayed.

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