Ankylosing spondylitis is a form of arthritis that affects the joints and ligaments of the spine. It is an autoimmune disease and its treatment varies. You can find more information below.
What is ankylosing spondylitis?
Ankylosing spondylitis is a type of inflammatory arthritis (inflammatory spine or lumbar rheumatism) that primarily affects the spine. Symptoms include back pain , stiffness, and limitation of mobility in the spine. Ankylosing spondylitis usually affects the sacroiliac joints. These joints connect the base of the spine (sacrum) to your pelvis. In some cases, it can also affect joints such as the hips and shoulders.
Ankylosing spondylitis affects men more often than women. Symptoms usually appear between the ages of 15 and 45. While there is currently no cure for this disease, there are many things you can do to help control your symptoms.
Ankylosing spondylitis is an autoimmune disease. This means that the disease occurs as the result of a faulty immune system. Instead of identifying foreign bodies (like viruses and bacteria) and attacking them to keep you healthy, your immune system mistakenly continues to attack healthy tissue in and around your joints, causing inflammation and pain.
As a result of these inflammations, new bone can grow around the joints in the spine. This can cause permanent stiffness in the back and neck of some people. In severe cases, this extra bone can fuse the bones of the spine together; however, this can usually be avoided by starting appropriate treatment as early as possible.
Most people with this disease can lead full and active lives as long as their condition is well monitored.
Why does ankylosing spondylitis occur?
The cause of this disease is unknown, but genes are thought to play a role. If there is a history of this disease in your family, you are more likely to get it.
Most people with ankylosing spondylitis have a gene called HLA-B27 , but this gene can also be found in people who don’t have the disease. Since the presence of this gene does not automatically lead to the development of the disease, other factors are also thought to play a role.
What are the symptoms of ankylosing spondylitis?
Although the symptoms vary from person to person, the common symptoms are as follows:
- Pain and stiffness in the back, hips or neck, especially felt in the morning. Symptoms can often worsen after rest and are relieved by exercise.
- Pain in tendons (tissue that connects muscles to bones) and ligaments (tissue that connects bones) is usually felt in the front of the chest, behind the heel, under the foot, and sometimes in the form of stomach pain.
- Patients complain of extreme fatigue.
Symptoms can vary from day to day and may be more intense in some cases. This condition is known as flare-up. While the signs are not very predictable, they can also appear with very little warning.
How is ankylosing spondylitis diagnosed?
Early diagnosis is important so that treatment can be started as soon as possible. To diagnose ankylosing spondylitis, there must be evidence of changes in your sacroiliac joints in addition to other clinical criteria.
You can pass a series of tests such as:
- medical history
- Physical examination
- Scans such as X-rays , computed tomography , or magnetic resonance imaging
- Can testi
- Genetics test
These tests are usually organized by your doctor or rheumatologist (a doctor who specializes in examining the muscles, bones, joints or musculoskeletal diseases). Your doctor will explain to you what the tests look for and what the results mean.
How is ankylosing spondylitis treated?
There is no clear targeted treatment for this condition. Treatment aims to manage your pain, reduce the risk of complications, and improve your quality of life. Your doctor will tailor your treatment to your specific symptoms and the severity of your condition. This may include trying different drugs to find the one that works best for you.
Your prescription for the treatment of ankylosing spondylitis may include the following medications:
- Analgesics (pain medications): These medications are usually used to manage or minimize pain.
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs: Used as temporary pain relievers and to control inflammation.
- Corticosteroids: Used to quickly control or reduce inflammation.
- Anti-rheumatic drugs: Used to control your overactive immune system.
- Biological drugs: Biological disease-modifying drugs that try to control your immune system.
Remember, your doctor will decide which medicine to take and how.
Ankylosing spondylitis exercises
Although exercise is important for a healthy life, it is especially important in the management of this disease. Exercise can be used to relieve pain, but it’s also important for keeping your spine healthy and flexible.
Special strengthening exercises help maintain strength along the spine. Exercises in warm water ( hydrotherapy ) may also be beneficial.
You can do general strengthening and aerobic exercises for your quality of life. It may be helpful to see a physical therapist or exercise physiologist to participate in an exercise program designed for your specific needs. Some physiotherapists are particularly interested in the treatment of this disease.
Self-management and nutrition
There are many things you can do to help yourself, such as:
- Learn more about your disease. Knowing as much as possible means you can make informed decisions about your health care and take an active role in managing it.
- Exercise and be as active as possible. You can talk to a physical therapist or exercise physiologist for specific advice about a daily exercise and stretching program.
- Manage your stress. Stress can exacerbate your symptoms and make you feel worse.
- If you have been sitting or standing in one position for a long time, get up and move.
- Engage in work, leisure and social activities. Social connections are extremely important.
- Be aware of your stance. Pay attention to your posture while sitting, standing and even lying down. Your body should be properly aligned, but also loose and flexible.
- Ankylosing spondylitis can also be managed with a healthy diet. Take care of a healthy diet.
- Get rid of negative emotions. It’s natural to feel overwhelmed when diagnosed with the disease. You may feel scared, angry, sad, or angry. It’s important to seek help when you have trouble accepting these feelings or when they begin to affect your daily life. Your doctor can provide you with information about available supports.
- Get support from others. It can be helpful to talk to other people with the same illness and know what they’re going through.