Ankylosing Spondylitis-All That You Should Know
Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) is a form of arthritis that majorly affects the spine but sometimes other joints also get affected. The condition causes the inflammation of the vertebra leading to joint pain and discomfort and in the advanced cases, the inflammation leads to the formation of new bones in the spine. The bone formation leads to the fusing of bone sections in a fixed position leading to joint pain and stiffness.
Understanding AS In Detail
Even though the inflammation of the spine is the most common impact of ankylosing spondylitis, it can cause inflammation and pain in the areas like ribs, heels, shoulder etc. In rare cases, the heart and lungs also get affected.
The joints involved in the condition are sacroiliac joints located at the base end of the spine at the point where it joins the pelvis.
What Are The Symptoms Of AS?
The onset of symptoms and the course of the condition vary from person to person. The symptoms usually start appearing during the transition from adolescence to youth or while getting into early adulthood but sometimes the symptoms can appear in young children or old people too.
The most common symptom of AS is the pain and stiffness in the lower back which is felt over the course of a few months or even weeks. In the initial stages, the pain is more diffused than localized which is severe during the nights and in the mornings. Light exercise and taking a warm shower can help improve the symptoms.
In the earlier stages, the patient may experience mild fever and loss of appetite and as the disease progresses the pain spreads up the spine into different parts of the body like thighs, shoulder blades, hips etc.
What Are The Causes Of AS?
Genetics has an important role to play in the disease and most of the individuals with AS have a gene that produces a protein HLA-B27 which is called the genetic marker. It is to be noted that merely the presence and absence of this gene cannot conclude if a person has AS or not because the majority of people who have this protein do not develop AS.
Scientists suspect the role of other genes as well as factors like bacterial infection in activating AS in people who belong to the risk group.
To diagnose AS, a thorough physical examination is conducted which includes an X-Ray, checking the medical history, checking if the person has a family history of AS and blood tests.
As of now, no medications and treatment can be suggested as an ultimate cure of the disease but several medications are available to reduce the pain symptoms and manage AS pain. Several recent studies give hope that new biological medications can slow down the progression of disease in some people.