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Immunology is the science of the body’s defenses against pathogens and disease-causing agents. Our immune system helps to identify and deactivate disease-causing organisms and pathogens. This process is highly complex. In rare cases, it may also involve malfunctions of these defense mechanisms. In the context of so-called autoimmune diseases the immune system wrongly identifies the body’s own tissue as being foreign and will start combating them (i.e. the immune system is directed against the body’s own structures). This may result in severe inflammatory reactions and responses with damage to the tissues and organs affected.

What are the effects of autoimmune diseases?

Autoimmune diseases may affect virtually all body sites such as joints, skin, blood vessels, lungs and kidneys. This also includes chronic inflammatory bowel diseases such as ulcerative colitis. Many of these disorders are painful, become worse over time or may occur in the form of attacks or relapses.

Quick Facts:

Roughly a quarter of the population in Austria is suffering from rheumatic complaints. These include more than 400 different presentations and clinical pictures. The most common inflammatory rheumatic joint disease is rheumatoid arthritis.

On a global level, musculoskeletal conditions, which also include inflammatory diseases such as osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis, are the primary causative reason for physical impairment with pain in the lower back being the main cause of disability.

An estimated 40,000 to 80,000 people in Austria suffer from a chronic inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). The most common types of this condition are ulcerative colitis (UC) and Crohn’s disease (CD).

Treatment Approaches

Frequently, inflammatory rheumatic conditions and inflammatory bowel or skin disorders are initially treated with antiinflammatory and pain-relieving disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs). The introduction of biologics (biotechnologically manufactured messenger substances and proteins) marked a new category of medications used in patients with inadequate response to such a baseline therapy. Medications with biological substances inhibit certain messenger substances of the inflammation and may stop or inhibit a progression of the disease.

AT-NON-01093, Created April 2022