Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) is uncommon inflammatory arthritis that affects the spine and the larger joints. It is also known as Bechterew disease. This lifelong condition is more frequent in men than women between the age group of 15 to 45. The term “ankylosis” means fused bones or hard tissue, and “spondylitis” refers to the inflammation in spinal bones or vertebrae. Individuals diagnosed with Ankylosing spondylitis visit a specially trained doctor called a rheumatologist.
What Are The Symptoms Of Ankylosing Spondylitis?
Its symptoms differ from person to person, some of which are discussed below: –
- It starts with lower back pain as it is a spine condition, but that doesn’t mean that every back pain is AS.
- It’s usually more in the night while sleeping or resting and painful while changing sides as you sleep. It gets a lot stiffer as the morning comes and ends in terrible morning stiffness. It gradually goes away as you start your day.
- Sometimes the morning stiffness may remain for about 30 minutes or so.
- It also reduces your flexibility and may even make your posture hunched if you don’t seek proper treatment at the right time.
- Over a period of time, it may even move upwards to your upper back and may even cause cervical cancer. Seeking the right as soon as possible is necessary.
- It also affects the bigger joints of the body like your knees, ankle, elbows, arms, and shoulders. These parts may have pain, swelling, or stiffness. This is also referred to as peripheral arthritis. It is about 30%-40% people.
- Some people may even show enthesitis. This is because a muscle or bone goes and joins with other muscles or bone, and these areas get swelled. It is mainly seen under or behind the ankle, on the side of the chest, and a little below the knee joint.
- Sometimes in about 5%- 10% of people, dactylitis is also seen. It is where your fingers and your thumb get fully swelled.
- There might be some complications in other parts except the large ones. One of them is acute iritis. It is the swelling of the iris along with redness and blurry vision.
- Neurologic symptoms include neuropathy (nerve problems), myopathy (muscle stress), and radiculopathy (pinched nerves).
- It can lead to certain cardiovascular effects such as inflammation of the aorta, aortic valve disease, and ischemic heart disease.
Causes Of Ankylosing Spondylitis
Since the accurate reason for the onset of AS is unknown, scientists believe this to be associated with both genetic factors and environmental elements of the patient. Most affected individuals exhibit the presence of a gene that codes for a marker protein called HLA-B27. But AS-infected persons don’t need to be HLA-B27 positive. The triggering environmental elements may include bacterial infection. ERAP 1, IL-12, IL-17, and IL-23 are some of the recent genes discovered by researchers related to AS.
Ankylosing Spondylitis Diagnosis
AS patients may be ordered to take blood tests such as erythrocyte sedimentation rate, complete blood count, or C-reactive protein in order to confirm the activation of HLA-B27 marker protein. Some of the diagnostic imaging tests used for confirmation of AS are X-rays, CT- scans, and MRI scans.
Cure For Ankylosing Spondylitis
There isn’t any known cure for AS at present. However, the symptoms and pain can be reduced or managed to a certain extent through medications and treatments.
- Designing physical therapy and exercises can aid in maintaining a better body posture and enable the mobility and strengthening of joints. Stretching, cardiovascular exercises, balance training, and muscle exercises could be added to the routine.
- Stretching has minimized the chances of joint fusion. Balance training develops bone Cardiovascular exercises like swimming and jogging can decrease the experienced pain and fatigue.
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like Indocin might be prescribed by doctors for people with AS. However, such drugs can lead to side effects like stomach bleeding, heart problems, etc.
- Strong medications like biologics (made of protein components) are given by doctors to patients in severe conditions who again are not free from side effects.
- To manage the symptoms of AS, doctors often recommend a diet high in omega-3 fatty acids.
- Doctors will decide surgery only in extreme cases of severe deformities such as joint replacement, massive posture alteration caused by inflammation, etc.
Some Exercises You Can Add To Your Routine
These are some simple stretches and exercises that you can easily incorporate into your daily routine and are very simple and easy to do. You can even do all exercises while lying on the bed only whenever you feel like during the day. It increases the flexibility and mobility of your body. If you want, you can even do it twice a day.
- Lay down with a thin pillow under your neck, and don’t straighten your legs; keep them half up. Then press your chin down to your throat and then apply pressure on the pillow from your head.
- Now for the next one, take a towel, roll it and keep it under your spine vertically. Then press your shoulders down from both sides. It should give you a nice stretch in the chest and breathe simultaneously.
- Now remove the towel and keep your hands behind your head. Now keep your right leg over the left leg and twist towards the left side. Make sure to keep your hands and elbows in place. Repeat the same on the other side. This will give you a good stretch on the affected area.
- Now turn around and come upon both your hands and both knees. Now lift your alternate hand and leg, i.e., your right hand with your left leg, and look down and maintain that posture and breathe simultaneously. Now do the same on the other side. Make sure to align your body in one straight line and keep your core tight. Doing this also makes your heart stronger.
So, that is all the exercises you need to follow and repeat as per your body’s requirements to get the best results. Also, note that you shouldn’t overdo them and make sure you’re taking care and be safe.