Ankylosing spondylitis explained

Do you have the signs and symptoms of this incurable autoimmune disease?

What is ankylosing spondylitis?

Ankylosing spondylitis, also known as AS, is an inflammatory arthritis that predominantly affects the joints of the spine. The cause of AS is currently unknown; however, according to the Better Health Channel, you are more likely to get it if there is a history of AS in your family.

More common in men than women, AS affects the sacroiliac joints that connect the base of the spine to the pelvis. The condition can also have an impact on the lungs, eyes, skin, hips and shoulder joints. It is an autoimmune disease, where – instead of attacking foreign bacteria or viruses – the immune system attacks healthy tissue around the joints. This causes inflammation, pain and, in some cases, new bone to grow around the joints in the spine. In rare cases, the new bone that grows can fuse the vertebrae together. 

Symptoms usually appear between the ages of 15 and 45. These include general fatigue, pain and reduced mobility in the spine, neck and buttocks. Experiencing pain in tendons and ligaments, such as those at the back of the heel, across the chest or on the soles of the feet are also common symptoms.

Diagnosis must be given by a medical professional after a series of tests that may include a physical examination, genetic testing, medical history, a blood test, CT, x-ray or MRI scans.

Without a cure for AS, medications aim to improve quality of life by managing symptoms. This involves pain management to control the overactive immune system and reduce inflammation. Exercise helps to relieve pain, and maintain mobility and flexibility in the spine and joints. The Better Health Channel recommends hydrotherapy in warm water to alleviate symptoms. Strengthening exercises, specified by a specialist, are also recommended.

As stress can aggravate symptoms of AS, managing and acknowledging the emotional aspects of the experience are important for both physical and mental health.

If you suspect you may have ankylosing spondylitis, we recommend seeking advice from a medical professional. For more information or to seek support, visit Musculoskeletal Australia.

Do you suffer from the symptoms of ankylosing spondylitis or have you in the past?


    Disclaimer: This article contains general information about health issues and is not advice. For health advice, consult your medical practitioner.


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