A chronic condition that causes inflammation primarily in the axial skeleton, including the apophyseal, sacroiliac and costovertebral joints along with the intervertebral disc articulations is known as Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS).
Ankylosing Spondylitis is also known as Bechterew’s disease or Marie- Strumpell disease. It is a type of arthritis that triggers constant pain in the vertebrae and might also result in disability. In extreme cases, due to inflammation, the spine tends to form new bones, results in a deformed back. Though not common, this medical condition may also cause pain in the peripheral joint, especially in the shoulders, knees, hips, ankles, and neck region.
There is no cure for reversing the effects of the medical condition, however, ankylosing spondylitis treatment is available to relieve a patient from the symptoms as well as to delay its growth.
What causes Ankylosing Spondylitis?
There is no sure cause for the occurrence of Ankylosis spondylitis. However, in many subjects, a link has been found to the gene, HLA-B27 (Human Leukocyte Antigen- B27). According to research, out of 10 people suffering from ankylosing spondylitis, 9 people were found to carry this gene.
Nevertheless, the research also mentions that the gene alone cannot be held responsible for the occurrence. The reason being that 8 out of 100 people, by and large, possess the HLA-B27gene, but do not suffer from Ankylosing spondylitis. The gene only makes a person more vulnerable to develop the condition.
There are other environmental factors involved that make a person susceptible to ankylosing spondylitis, which still remain unknown.
The illness can also be hereditary. This means that if a person is suffering from ankylosing spondylitis and also carries the HLA-B27, then his/her offspring(s) has more than 80% chances of developing the condition. On the other hand, if a person has ankylosing spondylitis but does not carry the HLA-B27, his/her offspring(s) has less than 10% chances of developing the condition.
What complications are associated with ankylosing spondylitis?
Having ankylosing spondylitis can cause various types of complications in a person’s daily life. The medical condition is complex and can affect more than one body part. Some of the complications that the medical condition can cause are as follows-
- Reduced flexibility
- Damage to the joints
- Blurry or cloudy vision in one of the eyes accompanied by swelling, redness, and sensitivity to light. The condition is known as Iritis and is sometimes associated with ankylosing spondylitis, sometimes resulting in the loss of vision if not treated on time.
- Weak and brittle bones, which may result in spinal fractures
- An increased risk of developing cardiovascular diseases
- Compression of the nerves at the bottom of the spine, which is a rare condition for patients with ankylosing spondylitis. This condition is known as cauda equina syndrome.
How to Know if you Have Ankylosing Spondylitis?
The symptoms for ankylosing spondylitis, during the initial stages, can be confusing because even though you will experience some pain and stiffness, it may disappear for some time and then return. Furthermore, it can be difficult to get a definite diagnosis of the medical condition initially because it is a condition that develops slowly and there is no exact method to confirm it.
Yet, there are some persistent symptoms to look out for, which are a sign that you should visit your doctor immediately for ankylosing spondylitis treatment. These symptoms are as follows-
- Back pain and stiffness, which gets better by exercising but worsens when you rest.
- Pain in the back gets worse during the mornings and at night
- Pain in and around the buttocks
- Pain, tenderness, warmth, and/or swelling in the affected joints like the knees or hips.
- Feeling fatigued or lacking energy most of the time.
What are the Types of Tests I Might Have to Take?
If your doctor suspects that you have ankylosing spondylitis, he/she might ask you to get some blood tests done to confirm the signs of inflammation in your body. Upon confirmation of the existence of inflammation, you will be referred to a rheumatologist. The rheumatologist will carry out the following tests to examine your conditions in-depth.
- MRI scan
- Genetic testing
Since diagnosis at an early stage cannot show damage to the spine, your doctor will be able to confirm your condition only if the X-ray results show signs of inflammation in the sacroiliac joints. The following existent conditions will also help your doctor determine whether you have ankylosing spondylitis.
- An occurrence of back pain and stiffness, which gets better by exercising but worsens when you rest for at least three months.
- Limited movement in the lower back
- According to your age, whether you have limited chest expansion.
If these three conditions are existent but your x-ray does not show the existence of sacroiliitis, or vice-versa then you will be diagnosed with having probable ankylosing spondylitis.
Is there any cure for ankylosing spondylitis?
There is no cure for Ankylosing Spondylitis, however, treatments are available to help patients manage the pain and slow down the process of the spine fusing. Some of the treatments that your doctor may suggest could include medication, exercise, and/or physiotherapy.
Medications for ankylosing spondylitis may include painkillers that can help manage a patient’s condition when he/she is referred to a rheumatologist. Some of these painkillers are NSAIDs (Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), Paracetamol, or Codeine. Paracetamol is prescribed to patients in case they do not find the usage of NSAIDs suitable. However, it must also be noted that if you suffer from liver problems or are dependant on alcohol, paracetamol should be avoided. Hence, let your doctor know if such conditions exist.
If by any chance, painkillers are not helping a patient to control the symptoms, Anti-TNF medications may then be recommended. These medications are given via injection. The medication prevents the effects of TNF, in the process also helping in reducing inflammation in the joints.
Additionally, Corticosteroids or DMARDs (Disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs) may also be recommended to patients.
Ankylosing spondylitis physiotherapy and exercises can also help patients a great deal. With the help of physiotherapy, the spine’s posture, as well as its range of movement, can be improved, while also preventing it from pain and stiffness. Ankylosing spondylitis physiotherapy may include individual or group exercise programs, massage, and hydrotherapy.
In extreme cases of ankylosis spondylitis, wherein a joint becomes damaged severely, a joint replacement surgery is recommended. Corrective surgery is also suggested for patients if the spine becomes badly bent. However, this is a rare case and most people do not have to undergo the knife.
HCAH is equipped with a team noteworthy and highly trained physiotherapists who have the expertise of providing the right method of treatment for Ankylosing Spondylitis. To know more about our at-home physiotherapy services and treatments or to book an appointment, call 1800 102 4224 (toll-free).