Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS) is a type of arthritis that affects the spine and other joints, causing chronic pain and stiffness. Fortunately, you can learn everything you need to know about AS with a search online right now.
Unfortunately, there is currently no cure for this condition, but there are effective treatment options available to help manage symptoms and improve quality of life. Early diagnosis is important, so if you’re experiencing symptoms, talk to your doctor.
What is Ankylosing Spondylitis?
Ankylosing spondylitis is an inflammatory condition is typically diagnosed in individuals between the ages of 17 and 45 and can lead to significant loss of mobility if left untreated. According to WebMD, AS affects approximately 1% of adults in the United States.
AS is an autoimmune disease, which means the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissues in the body. While the exact cause of AS is unknown, researchers believe that a combination of genetic and environmental factors may play a role. HLA-B27 is a genetic marker that is present in 90% of individuals with AS, suggesting that there may be a genetic component to the development of the condition. In addition, environmental factors such as smoking, infections, and certain medications may trigger or worsen AS symptoms.
The most common symptom of AS is pain and stiffness in the lower back and hips, which may be worse in the morning or after periods of inactivity. Other symptoms may include limited range of motion, fatigue, and difficulty breathing. AS can also affect other joints in the body, including the knees, ankles, and shoulders. In some cases, AS may cause inflammation in the eyes or other organs.
Diagnosing AS can be challenging as the symptoms may overlap with other conditions. A physical exam, medical history, and imaging tests such as X-rays, CT scans, and MRI may be used to diagnose AS. Blood tests may also be conducted to check for the presence of the HLA-B27 gene or signs of inflammation in the body. According to the Spondylitis Association of America, it takes an average of 7 years to receive an accurate diagnosis for AS.
While there is no cure for AS, there are several effective treatment options available to manage symptoms and slow the progression of the disease. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are often the first line of treatment for AS as they can help reduce pain and inflammation. Other medications such as disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) and biologic therapies may be used to target the underlying immune system dysfunction. In addition, physical therapy and regular exercise can help improve flexibility and maintain mobility.
When to Speak to a Doctor
If you are experiencing persistent pain and stiffness in your lower back or other joints, it is important to speak to a doctor. While AS is a chronic condition that cannot be cured, early diagnosis and treatment can help manage symptoms and slow the progression of the disease. If left untreated, AS can lead to significant loss of mobility and quality of life. Your doctor can help you develop an effective treatment plan based on your individual needs and symptoms.