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  • Writer's pictureDr. Chris Phillips

Understanding Ankylosing Spondylitis: Symptoms, Causes, and Management

According to the Spondylitis Association of America, Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS) is a chronic inflammatory condition that primarily affects the spine, causing pain, stiffness, and reduced mobility. While AS primarily impacts the spine, it can also affect other joints and organs in the body. 

In this article, we'll explore the symptoms, causes, and management strategies for Ankylosing Spondylitis, as well as the importance of early diagnosis and treatment.

Symptoms of Ankylosing Spondylitis:

The hallmark symptom of Ankylosing Spondylitis is chronic back pain and stiffness, which is typically worse in the morning or after periods of inactivity. 

Other common symptoms of AS include:

  • Pain and stiffness in the neck, hips, and other joints

  • Fatigue and loss of appetite

  • Reduced flexibility and range of motion in the spine

  • Difficulty breathing due to chest wall stiffness (in severe cases)

  • Eye inflammation (uveitis)

  • Digestive issues such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)

Causes of Ankylosing Spondylitis:

The exact cause of Ankylosing Spondylitis is unknown, but it is believed to involve a combination of genetic and environmental factors. The strongest genetic association is with a gene called HLA-B27, although not everyone with the gene will develop AS. Environmental factors such as infections or trauma may trigger the onset of AS in individuals with a genetic predisposition.

Management Strategies:

While there is no cure for Ankylosing Spondylitis, treatment focuses on managing symptoms, preventing complications, and improving quality of life. 

Management strategies may include:

  • Medications: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), corticosteroids, and disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) may help reduce inflammation and pain.

  • Physical therapy: Exercises and stretching techniques can improve flexibility, strength, and posture, and help maintain mobility.

  • Biologic therapies: Biologic medications, such as TNF-alpha inhibitors, target specific proteins in the immune system to reduce inflammation and slow disease progression.

  • Lifestyle modifications: Regular exercise, maintaining a healthy weight, practicing good posture, and quitting smoking can help manage symptoms and improve overall health.

Importance of Early Diagnosis and Treatment:

Early diagnosis and treatment of Ankylosing Spondylitis is crucial for preventing complications and preserving joint function. If left untreated, AS can lead to spinal fusion and permanent disability. Therefore, it's essential to seek medical attention if you experience persistent back pain, stiffness, or other symptoms associated with AS.

If you suspect you may have Ankylosing Spondylitis or are experiencing symptoms such as chronic back pain and stiffness, contact Paducah Rheumatology for evaluation and personalized treatment recommendations. Please note: A physican’s referral is required for all new patients. 

Our experienced team of rheumatologists specializes in diagnosing and managing rheumatic conditions, including AS. Schedule an appointment today to take the first step towards better health and improved quality of life.

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