Ankylosing Spondylitis

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Ankylosing spondylitis facts

  • Ankylosing spondylitis belongs to a group of arthritis conditions which tend to cause chronic inflammation of the spine (spondyloarthropathies).
  • Ankylosing spondylitis affects males two to three times more commonly than females.
  • Ankylosing spondylitis is a cause of back pain in adolescents and young adults.
  • The tendency to develop ankylosing spondylitis is genetically inherited.
  • The HLA-B27 gene can be detected in the blood of most patients with ankylosing spondylitis.
  • Ankylosing spondylitis can also affect the eyes, heart, lungs, and occasionally the kidneys.
  • The optimal treatment of ankylosing spondylitis involves medications that reduce inflammation or suppress immunity, physical therapy, and exercise.

What is ankylosing spondylitis?

Ankylosing spondylitis is a form of chronic inflammation of the spine and the sacroiliac joints. The sacroiliac joints are located in the low back where the sacrum (the bone directly above the tailbone) meets the iliac bones (bones on either side of the upper buttocks). Chronic inflammation in these areas causes pain and stiffness in and around the spine. Over time, chronic inflammation of the spine (spondylitis) can lead to a complete cementing together (fusion) of the vertebrae, a process referred to as ankylosis. Ankylosis leads to loss of mobility of the spine.

Inflammation of Spondyloarthropathy Illustration - Picture of Ankylosing Spondylitis
Picture of ankylosing spondylitis areas of inflammation

Ankylosing spondylitis is also a systemic disease, meaning it can affect other tissues throughout the body. Accordingly, it can cause inflammation in or injury to other joints away from the spine, as well as to other organs, such as the eyes, heart, lungs, and kidneys. Ankylosing spondylitis shares many features with several other arthritis conditions, such as psoriatic arthritis, reactive arthritis (formerly called Reiter's disease), and arthritis associated with Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis. Each of these arthritic conditions can cause disease and inflammation in the spine, other joints, eyes, skin, mouth, and various organs. In view of their similarities and tendency to cause inflammation of the spine, these conditions are collectively referred to as "spondyloarthropathies." Ankylosing spondylitis is considered one of the many rheumatic diseases because it can cause symptoms involving muscles and joints.

Ankylosing spondylitis is two to three times more common in men than in women. In women, joints away from the spine are more frequently affected than in men. Ankylosing spondylitis affects all age groups, including children. When it affects children, it is referred to as juvenile ankylosing spondylitis. The most common age of onset of symptoms is in the second and third decades of life. Ankylosing spondylitis is often abbreviated AS and has been referred to as Bechterew's disease.


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Ankylosing Spondylitis - Symptoms Question: The symptoms of ankylosing spondylitis can vary greatly from patient to patient. What were your symptoms at the onset of your disease?
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Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS) Diet and Exercises

Will Diet and Exercise Help?

A healthy diet and exercise are good for everyone, and they may be very helpful if you have AS. There is no specific diet for people with AS, but keeping a healthy weight is important. It reduces stress on painful joints. Omega-3 fatty acids, found in coldwater fish (such as tuna and salmon), flax seeds, and walnuts, might reduce disease activity. This is still being studied.

Exercise and stretching may help painful, stiff joints. It should be done carefully and increased gradually. Before beginning an exercise program, it™s important to speak with a doctor who can tailor exercises to your needs. Two types of exercises may help:

  • Strengthening exercises
  • Range-of-motion exercises.

Many people with AS find it helpful to exercise in water.

SOURCE:

National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases

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