Ankylosing spondylitis is a rare type of arthritic inflammation in which small bones in the vertebral column fuse together making the spine less flexible and giving a hunched back posture. It not only causes inflammation of the spine (i.e. spondyloarthropathies) but also in the sacroiliac joints (i.e. sacroiliitis). In case, the fusion of bones affects the ribs, it can also lead to trouble in breathing and can also affect the heart, lungs, eyes, and occasionally the kidneys as well. Also Read: Spinal Stenosis: Causes, Symptoms And Treatment
Although the absolute cause of ankylosing spondylitis is yet unknown, there are certain shreds of evidence that show that genetic factors, especially the presence of the gene HLA-B27 play a crucial role in increasing the risk of getting this diseased condition.
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The risk of Ankylosing Spondylitis spikes up due to the following factors:
Age: Usually occurs in late adolescence and early adulthood
Sex: More common in men than in women
Heredity: Presence of HLA-B27 gene increases the risk
The early symptoms of ankylosing spondylitis are quite unpredictable, but with time, the pain can either become much worse, reduce and sometimes can even go away altogether. It chiefly affects the places where your tendons and ligaments attach to bones, i.e. the joints. The common signs and symptoms include pain and inflammation in the following areas:
- Hip and shoulder joints
- Vertebrae in the lower back
- The joint between the base of the spine and pelvis, i.e. lower back
- The cartilage between the breastbone and ribs
Other symptoms include:
- A rigid spine that curves forward
- Excessive tiredness
- Pain that’s worse in the morning or after sitting for a long time
- Swelling in the joints as in the case of tenosynovitis
- Trouble taking deep breaths
If the symptoms are left untreated, the new bone that forms to heal the body and bridge the gaps in between bones often leads to total fusion of bones causing stiffness in the area and leading to inflexibility. It can also cause heart problems, compression fractures and eye inflammation, i.e. uveitis.
Diagnosis And Treatment
Once you notice any pain or stiffness in any part of the body especially near some joints, it is strictly advised to get diagnosed by a doctor. The specialized doctor or orthopaedic usually does a thorough physical check-up followed by searching for pain points by pressing on different portions of your pelvis. The doctor may also measure the circumference of the chest or ask the patient to take a deep breath to see if he or she has difficulty expanding the chest.
The doctor may also run some blood tests to scrutinize the presence of the HLA-B27 gene followed by Imaging techniques like X-ray, MRI-scan, etc.
Treatment options usually depend upon:
Medications: Prescribing for pain-reducing and anti-inflammatory medications to get relief from the inflammation, pain, and stiffness.
Physiotherapy: This non-surgical method is best known to improve physical strength and flexibility and reduces stiffness and pain. Also Read: 10 Ways To Relieve Spondylitis Instantly
Surgery: As the last resort, for chronic cases, the doctor may suggest surgical options to treat this diseased condition.