Ankylosing Spondylitis – What is it?

Ankylosing Spondylitis is also known as a chronic inflammation of the spine and the sacroiliac joints. It is also a systemic disease that affects other tissues in the body. The sacroiliac joints are located at the lower back where the sacrum meets the iliac bones.

This condition does not only affect the bones but also other organs in the body. Patient experiencing this condition may suffer with pain and stiffness. In its severe form, the spine can lead to fusion or complete cementing together of the vertebrae.

Ankylosing spondylitis resembles many features of several arthritis conditions like reactive arthritis, Ulcerative colitis, and Crohn’s disease. Furthermore, ankylosing spondylitis is considered as one of the many rheumatic disorder because its symptoms affect joints and muscles.

Ankylosing Spondylitis occurs mostly among males than in females. In women, usually joints away from the spine are affected. This condition affects all age groups, including children. Typically, the symptoms are seen or experienced gradually starting the age of 20 to 30.

The cause of this condition is still unknown. It is known that ankylosing spondylitis is genetically inherited. 90% of patients that are born with this condition have a gene called HLA-B27.

Symptoms associated in this condition are:
• Fatigue – the most common symptom associated with inflammation.

• Pain and stiffness in the lower back, upper buttock, and neck.

• In severe cases of ankylosing spondylitis, complete spine immobility are experienced when fusion has already happened.

• There is forward curvature of the upper torso that may impair breathing.

• Arthritis in joints is also apparent in women with ankylosing spondylitis.

• Slight fever, loss of appetite, and weight loss are less common symptoms.

In treating ankylosing spondylitis, there is really no cure for this condition. But the treatment and medications are available to reduce the pain. The goal of treatment is to alleviate pain and stiffness, and more importantly, to allow the patient to have a normal day-to-day activities. Interventions for ankylosing spondylitis are:

• Medications – Aspirin and Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) are commonly used to relieve pain and stiffness.

• Physical therapy and exercise – includes deep breathing exercises and stretching to improve joint and spine mobility.

• Lifestyle change and modification – include quitting smoking.

Since genetic factors are the main cause of ankylosing spondyltits, it is not possible to prevent the disease. In caring for a patient with ankylosing spondylitis at home, he/she can be instructed to do the following:

• Sleep on a firm mattress.

• Sit in a chair with upright firm back.

• Do not sit or lie down for long period of time.

• Keep weight under control.

• Do not smoke.

• A hot bath can be done to relieve pain.

Most people with an ankylosing spondylitis can look forward to a positive future where they can continue to live a content life.

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