Ankylosing spondylitis is an inflammatory disease, can cause some of the small bones in your spine (vertebrae) to fuse. This fusing makes the spine less flexible and can result in a hunched-forward posture. If ribs are affected, it can be difficult to breathe deeply.
Ankylosing spondylitis affects men more often than women. Signs and symptoms typically begin in early adulthood. Inflammation also can occur in other parts of your body — most commonly, your eyes. There is no cure for ankylosing spondylitis, but treatments can lessen your symptoms and possibly slow progression of the disease.
Symptoms for Ankylosing spondylitis
Early signs and symptoms of ankylosing spondylitis might include pain and stiffness in your lower back and hips, especially in the morning and after periods of inactivity. Neck pain and fatigue also are common. Over time, symptoms might worsen, improve or stop at irregular intervals.
The joints most commonly affected are:
The joint between the base of your spine and your pelvis
- The vertebrae in your lower back
- The places where your tendons and ligaments attach to bones, mainly in your spine, but sometimes along the back of your heel
- Your hip and shoulder joints
Complications with Ankylosing spondylitis
- Eye inflammation (uveitis). One of the most common complications of ankylosing spondylitis, uveitis can cause rapid-onset eye pain, sensitivity to light and blurred vision. See your doctor right away if you develop these symptoms.
- Compression fractures. Some people’s bones thin during the early stages of ankylosing spondylitis. Weakened vertebrae can crumble, increasing the severity of your stooped posture.
- Heart problems. Ankylosing spondylitis can cause problems with your aorta.
Diagnosis for Ankylosing spondylitis
- During the physical exam, your doctor might measure flexibility of your spine and chest expansion
Imaging tests for Ankylosing spondylitis
- X-rays allow your doctor to check for changes in your joints and bones, though the visible signs of ankylosing spondylitis might not be evident early in the disease.
- An MRI uses radio waves and a strong magnetic field to provide more-detailed images of bones and soft tissues. MRI scans can reveal evidence of ankylosing spondylitis earlier in the disease process, but are much more expensive.
Lab tests Ankylosing spondylitis
Here are no specific lab tests to identify ankylosing spondylitis. Certain blood tests can check for markers of inflammation, but inflammation can be caused by many different health problems.
- Your blood can be tested for the HLA-B27 gene. But most people who have that gene don’t have ankylosing spondylitis and you can have the disease without having the gene.
Treatment for Ankylosing spondylitis
- The goal of treatment is to relieve your pain and stiffness and prevent or delay complications and spinal deformity. Ankylosing spondylitis treatment is most successful before the disease causes irreversible damage to your joints.
· Medications for Ankylosing spondylitis
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) — such as naproxen (Naprosyn) and indomethacin (Indocin, Tivorbex) — are the medications doctors most commonly use to treat ankylosing spondylitis. They can relieve your inflammation, pain and stiffness. However, these medications might cause gastrointestinal bleeding.
- If NSAIDs aren’t helpful, your doctor might suggest starting a biologic medication. Biologic agents reduce pain, stiffness, and tender or swollen joints. They are administered by injecting the medication under the skin or through an intravenous line.
Physical therapy for Ankylosing spondylitis
Physical therapy is an important part of treatment and can provide a number of benefits, from pain relief to improved strength and flexibility. A physical therapist can design specific exercises for your needs.
Range-of-motion and stretching exercises can help maintain flexibility in your joints and preserve good posture. Proper sleeping and walking positions and abdominal and back exercises can help maintain your upright posture.