Ankylosing Spondylitis

What Is Spondylosis?

Ankylosing spondylitis is a form of arthritis that affects the spine. It causes inflammation of your vertebrae. The inflammation caused by arthritis causes painful irritation in your spine, which can cause the vertebrae in your spine to fuse over time. As a result of this fusion, your spine becomes less flexible and you may experience pain and stiffness. You can also develop a hunched-forward posture. If your ribs are affected, it can become difficult to breathe deeply. The inflammation caused by ankylosing spondylitis can also spread to other areas of your body, most commonly your eyes.

There is no cure for ankylosing spondylitis, but non-surgical and surgical treatments can reduce the severity of your symptoms and help slow the progression of the disease.

Causes

It’s unknown what causes this disease, though researchers believe it might be associated with the gene HLA-B27. Almost everyone with ankylosing spondylitis has this gene, however most people with the gene never develop this disease.

The condition primarily affects men. Two to three times more men than women develop the disease. The age of disease onset is usually between 17 to 35 years old.

Symptoms

The symptoms of ankylosing spondylitis vary greatly from patient to patient. Almost all cases are characterized by painful episodes known as flares, which are followed by periods of remission when symptoms subside. The symptoms typically appear in early adulthood, but they can also present later in life or in childhood. The most common early symptoms of ankylosing spondylitis are:

  • Chronic pain and stiffness in the lower back, buttocks and hips (usually develops slowly over several weeks or months)
  • Pain and stiffness that worsens during periods of rest or inactivity and improves with movement and exercise
  • Back pain during the night or early morning
  • Feeling very stiff in the morning

Other common symptoms may include:

  • Dull pain in the lower back that gradually appears over weeks or months
  • Mild fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • General discomfort
  • Anemia
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Hunched back
  • Joint pain

Over time, symptoms might worsen, improve or stop at irregular intervals.

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