Ankylosing spondylitis is form of arthritis that primarily affects the spine causing some of the small bones in the spine to fuse together. It also causes severe inflammation of the spine which can lead to chronic pain and disability. In advanced cases, the inflammation can contribute to the formation of a new bone on the spine thus leading to a degree of deformity.
This condition can also cause stiffness and pain in other parts of the body such as in the larger joints like the shoulders, hips, and knees.
Causes Ankylosing Spondylitis
Currently there is no known cause of ankylosing spondylitis but there are risk factors which can contribute to it such as:
- Sex: Men are more prone to develop ankylosing spondylitis than women
- Age: The onset of this condition generally occurs from the late adolescence or early adulthood
- Heredity: Genetics plays a role in the development of ankylosing spondylitis
Symptoms of Ankylosing Spondylitis
The symptoms of ankylosing spondylitis tend to vary, but often exhibit characteristics of mild to moderate flare-ups of inflammation which can alternate to periods of no symptoms. Back pain in the morning and evening is the main symptom but the patient can also experience pain in the shoulders and hips. Other symptoms include:
- Stooped shoulders or poor posture
- Early morning stiffness
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss due to poor appetite
- Low-grade fever
- Reduced lung function
Other areas of the body can also be affected since ankylosing spondylitis involves inflammation. Patients with this condition can also experience:
- Mild eye inflammation
- Inflammation of the bowels
- Heart valve inflammation
- Achilles tendonitis
Diagnosis of Ankylosing Spondylitis
Because symptoms of ankylosing spondylitis tend to be similar to those of common back problems in the early stages, the affected individua may take some time before seeking any medical help. However, it is very important to consult with a doctor as soon as the affected individual suspects ankylosing spondylitis because early treatment can help in slowing down the progression of the disease.
Since there is no one particular test that can determine if one has ankylosing spondylitis, the diagnosis is usually based on several factors which include:
- The medical history of the patient’s condition and the symptoms he/she is experiencing.
- A physical examination
- Blood tests to check for the presence of inflammation
- X-ray or a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan
- The age of the patient
Treatment of Ankylosing Spondylitis
The goal of treating ankylosing spondylitis is to relieve stiffness and pain or discomfort as well as delay any spinal deformity and other complications.
The treatment includes:
- Medications such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) for relieving pain, inflammation and stiffness.
- Physical therapy is an essential part of the treatment for ankylosing spondylitis as it can relieve pain as well as improve strength and stability.
- Surgery is not necessary for people with ankylosing spondylitis, but the attending spine expert can recommend it if you have severe pain or joint damage.
At King’s College Hospital Dubai, we focus on offering an exemplary service, from initial consultation through to final diagnosis and treatment and beyond. Our multidisciplinary team of expert doctors, nurses, physio therapists are here to offer tailored management and treatment of your condition, and to answer any questions that you might have throughout your time with us. Whatever you need us for, we’re only a phone-call away.
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