Ankylosing Spondylitis or AS is a medically advanced variety of arthritis that mainly generates undesired inflammation of the spine joints and in turn, causes the vertebrae to amalgamate resulting in spine new bone formation. It can be so severe that the spine can become immobile, permanently affecting general body postures. It can evolve from feelings of discomfort into a severe, chronic pain.
On-time diagnosis may prevent development of body deformations, although main characteristics of the disease tend to vary from one person to another. Back pain is a general symptom. At early stages, AS is not easily diagnosed through X-rays detection.
- How can a person develop Ankylosing Spondylitis?
As today, scientists have not yet been able to determine the cause of AS. It is known however, that both genetics and environmental elements may give rise to the disease. If your family has had AS, you are bound to have it too!
AS has been shown to affect more men than women and they do so usually during young adulthood. They could also become sick when they are less than fifty years old. In fewer numbers, both children and older people can experience the disease.
- What are typical symptoms?
AS will mostly occur in adolescence or young adulthood. Usually, the person will experience low back pain and it simply remains aching for a long time. The pain can stay for more than three months, classified as chronic pain. Hurting tends to become stronger after resting and reduced after exercising.
AS affects the spine and it can cause rigidness and changes in normal standing posture. The symptoms tend to appear progressively. With time, AS will cause mobility impairment due to lack of body flexibility. Also, symptoms such as fever, fatigue and loss of appetite have been shown.
AS can affect the neck, shoulders, hips, hands, arms, knees, ankles and heel joints. Even eyes can swell and show some kind of irritation by becoming reddish, watery and painful.
Not all people experience the most severe forms of AS, some only have pain from time to time and general discomfort. However, AS tends to get worse over time and generally leads people to body limitations.
- How is AS diagnosed and treated?
There is not a cure for AS known today, although medications can slower down the deteriorating progress of the disease. AS will mostly be diagnosed when the doctor knows about the symptoms and preforms a physical exam and lab testing such as a back X-ray, magnetic resonance imaging and blood tests. A visit to a rheumatologist for a firm diagnosis and treatment will be needed. Consulting physical and occupational therapists is recommended.
Inflammatory back pain and/or joint inflammations occurring previously and having a parent who showed the disease are all alarms to be checked.
Medications include drugs to reduce inflammation, pain and rigidness, like ibuprofen and aspirin and other pain relievers, prescribed anti-rheumatic and anti-depressant drugs aimed at slowing AS progression and steroid formulations directly placed in severely affected sites.
Surgery can also help affected areas through replacement of joints. Other treatments such as physical therapy and yoga might be useful.
Daily exercise (although jumping is not advised), keeping away from smoking and maintaining a straight up posture to avoid deformities as well as selecting the best possible natural and healthy type of food will provide some means to fight this disease.
There are many social organizations around the world that have a mission of solidarity with people having AS. It might be a good idea to join a group that fits your needs and to share your experience with others especially if you have found ways to enhance the quality of your lifestyle.
AS is a long term disease and seeing a rheumatologist as soon as you detect symptoms might be a key to successfully slowing down the degenerative process caused by this disease. So, consult your doctor to know how to confront Ankylosing Spondylitis!