Ankylosing Spondylitis is a type of arthritis that causes painful inflammation in the spine. Over time, it may make your vertebrae, the small bones of the spine, fuse together. It can also inflame other joints, like hips and knees, and it can also damage your eyes, heart, and other organs.
In more advanced cases this inflammation can lead to ankylosis, new bone formation in the spine, causing sections of the spine to fuse in a fixed, immobile position.
AS can also cause inflammation, pain, and stiffness in other areas of the body such as the shoulders, hips, ribs, heels, and small joints of the hands and feet. There is no cure, but treatment and taking care of yourself can often slow it down or prevent it from getting worse.
Ankylosing Spondylitis: Who Is Susceptible?
Three times more men than women get ankylosing spondylitis (AS), typically between ages 16 and 35. It’s more common in people who are white, Asian, or Hispanic. You’re more likely to get it if one of your parents or siblings has it. Most people with the disease have a gene called HLA-B27.
Ankylosing Spondylitis: Pain And Swelling
Pain and swelling occur when your tendons and ligaments connect to bones. You’re likely to feel this at the top of your shinbone, the back or bottom of your heel, or where your ribs connect to your breastbone. When your ribs are affected, you may have trouble breathing or it may hurt when you breathe because you can’t fully expand your chest.
Ankylosing Spondylitis: Additional Effects on Your Body
Other joints like your hips, knees, and shoulders can also hurt and swell. Ankylosing spondylitis can lead to weak, brittle bones (osteoporosis). Feeling drained of energy is common, and you may have anemia. You could lose also weight because of problems in your gut, such as colitis. in addition, the disease can cause inflammation that damages your eyes, heart.
Ankylosing Spondylitis: See a Doctor
Symptoms usually show up slowly over many months or years. They vary from person to person. But, you should get checked out if your lower back, hips, or bottom have been hurting for more than a few months, especially when the pain wakes you at night or feels bad in the morning. Another symptom is if it gets better with exercise and worse when you rest.
Check your eyes right away if your vision is blurry, your eyes are red and hurt, or light bothers you.
Ankylosing Spondylitis: Diagnosis
It can take a while to confirm. Doctors check the spine’s flexibility, what positions cause pain, and your breathing. Blood tests for inflammation and the HLA-B27 gene are taken. In addition, X-rays and MRIs may show spine damage.
Ankylosing Spondylitis: Treatment
There is no cure, but treatment can help you keep doing your usual activities and living your life by easing symptoms and holding off more severe, long-term effects.
Rheumatologists are specialists who treat arthritis and other diseases of the bones, joints, and muscles. Depending on your symptoms, you might need to work with other health professionals, too.
Ankylosing Spondylitis: Medication
You usually start with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen. These help with pain, stiffness, and swelling. Other arthritis drugs won’t help your spine, but they may lessen pain and swelling in other joints.
Ankylosing Spondylitis: Stay Healthy
Stay active. It will help keep your weight in check and thereby reduce extra strain on your back and joints. Eat less bread, rice, and potatoes, and more lean protein, vegetables, and fruits. Make sure to get plenty of calcium and vitamin D for your bones. And, avoid smoking. Smokers with this disease tend to have more spinal damage.
Ankylosing Spondylitis: Posture
Choose hard, upright chairs instead of soft, cushy ones. A pillow behind your back can give you support.
Use a firm mattress that has some give. Avoid a lot of pillows. It’s best to sleep on your belly with no pillow, or on your back with one thin pillow. Keep your legs stretched out, rather than curled up.
Ankylosing Spondylitis: Physical Therapy
Treatment often includes an individual, tailored exercise plan to ease pain, build strength, and improve your range of motion. A physical therapist can coach you on posture and sleep positions. Massage and other bodywork may help with your comfort and flexibility.
Watch this informative video on Ankylosing Spondylitis: