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About Ankylosing Spondylitis

Updated on March 8, 2015

Ankylosing spondylitis is another form of arthritis. With this disease, the patient’s back will result in a curved forward posture. Once the patient develops this condition, there is no cure for it. The patient will suffer from it for the rest of his life. However, in few people, there may be a remission.

What is Ankylosing Spondylitis

Ankylosing spondylitis is a long term disease where there is inflammation of the spine. What happens to the patient is that his vertebrae in the spine fuse together. In the earlier stages of this disease, the patient may feel extreme pain and stiffness in his spinal cord or parts of his spine. Over time, the sufferer may lose mobility in his spinal cord.

If you think the cementing (fusing) of the spine is the only problem the sufferer has to suffer, think again. There are many complications that are accompanied by ankylosing spondylitis. It is a systemic disease which means it can involve the other joints of the body even if the joints are away from the spine. Aside from that, it can also cause the inflammation of other organs in the body such as the eyes, kidneys, heart, and lungs. Other complications that sufferers face are heel pain, lower back pain, and pain and stiffness in the hips and neck.

What Happens to the Spine?

The patient suffers from inflammation of the spine. When there is inflammation in the body, the body attempts to heal the inflamed part. In ankylosing spondylitis, new bone forms in the spine as an attempt probably to replace the inflamed part of the spine. However, instead of helping the body to heal, the new bones are actually filling the spaces between each vertebra. While the original vertebrae are still there, the new bones that are forming are occupying the supposed empty spaces that are needed for the spine’s flexibility. This process therefore is doing more harm than good for the body. The formation of the new bone gradually and eventually fuses sections of the vertebrae of the spine together. This can result in the stiffness of the person’s spine. This can also limit the sufferer’s mobility.

Severe pain and stiffness may indicate a severe inflammation on the affected parts. These can cause the complete fusion of the spine or otherwise known as ankylosis. When ankylosis occurs, the pain may disappear, however, the spine may have already lost its mobility. The affected part will then be vulnerable to bone breakage. In its severe stages, ankylosing spondylitis can cause a hunched forward posture of the affected individual. This can limit the person’s breathing capacity.

Early Signs to Watch Out For

To help with an early detection of the disease, one usually feels the pain in the lower back and the hips. Sufferers usually feel it after bedtime and during long periods of physical inactivity. Sufferers would notice a decreased range of motion of their spine.

The inflammation usually affects the whole spinal cord, the neck, and the lower back. The pain and stiffness is usually gradual and worsens over time. But some people may experience rapid and intense pain even in its early stages. The pain and stiffness are usually worst in the mornings and on prolonged periods of inactivity. The pain and stiffness are usually eased through physical activity, heat, or a warm shower.

Complications of Ankylosing Spondylitis

Aside from the fusing of the person’s spine, ankylosing spondylitis sufferers may also suffer from many other complications.

  • Eye inflammation or uveitis can cause sensitivity to light and have blurred vision. It may eventually impair vision.

  • Some sufferers may experience compression fractures where the bones of the person are thinning. It will make the person’s bones easy to break and can increase the severity of his condition.

  • Breathing difficulty is a serious complication of ankylosing spondylitis. When difficulty in breathing occurs, it is a sign that the rib cage of the person is affected by ankylosis.

  • The heart may also have difficulty functioning properly since the disease will eventually get to the point where the heart will be affected. It can slow down the heartbeat of a person. Once the heart beats abnormally, it can cause shortness of breath, dizziness, and heart failure.

  • Heel pain and stiffness.

  • Kidney damage and eventually kidney failure.

Making Things Better For the Patients

Sufferers of the disease are quite unique from each other. The severity of the disease may vary widely from person to person. The course of the condition for people with ankylosing spondylitis may change over time. Some people may experience relapses and remissions but others may not. So, each sufferer is treated differently by their health care providers.

Treatments of this disease are the most successful in its early stages. This is because while the disease still doesn’t cause irreversible damage to the body, the sufferer can delay and even prevent the onset of the physical deformities brought on by the disease. With proper care and proper treatment of the inflammation followed by having an active physical lifestyle, sufferers can delay if not totally prevent the onset of the spine fusion.

The medications needed for people with ankylosing spondylitis are medications that help to reduce inflammation and medications that help suppress the progression of the disease. Physical therapy is beneficial to the patient to help relieve pain, improve physical capacity, and flexibility. Physical exercises are also done to improve spine posture, mobility, and improve lung capacity. Swimming and light aerobic exercises are the preferred choice of exercise for people with ankylosing spondylitis. Stretching exercises can help preserve good posture and breathing exercises can help sustain lung capacity.

Who Is Prone To Ankylosing Spondylitis

What causes ankylosing spondylitis is still unknown however genetics seems to be one evident factor. People who have ankylosing spondylitis have the gene “HLA-B27”. However, there are many people who have this gene that never develop the disease. So, having this gene in a person’s genetics is not a guarantee that he will eventually develop this kind of disease. But having “HLA-B27” in the gene along with having relatives who suffered from this disease should make a person be more aware of the increased risks he may have of developing ankylosing spondylitis.


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    • BeatsMe profile image

      BeatsMe 5 years ago

      Hi Quicksand, glad you appreciate it. I hope you stayed here just as long. Cheers! And thanks for dropping by. :)

    • quicksand profile image

      quicksand 5 years ago

      It's also a great tongue twister. I spent the last few hours trying to pronounce it!

      Thanks for the info, and cheers!