Ankylosing spondylitis, also referred to as Bechterew’s disease, is a form of arthritis primarily affecting the spine. This condition triggers inflammation in the spinal joints, resulting in persistent discomfort and potential disability if not effectively managed.
In severe cases, this inflammation can lead to the formation of new bone in the spine, potentially restricting movement.
Additionally, ankylosing spondylitis can cause pain and stiffness in other parts of the body, impacting larger joints like the shoulders, hips, heels, and knees.
Varieties of Spondyloarthritis
Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) is categorized within a broader group of conditions known as spondyloarthritis, which is characterized by inflammation affecting the spine and joints. Within this group, there are two main categories:
- Axial Spondyloarthritis: These are diseases primarily impacting the spine. Ankylosing spondylitis is a specific type of axial spondyloarthritis that can be identified through X-ray imaging. Another subtype, referred to as non-radiographic axial spondyloarthritis, does not display abnormalities on X-rays.
- Peripheral Spondyloarthritis: These conditions predominantly involve joints located in the limbs, heels, fingers, and toes.
It’s worth noting that some individuals may experience features of both axial and peripheral spondyloarthritis, making their condition a blend of these two types.
Signs and Symptoms of Ankylosing Spondylitis
The signs and symptoms of ankylosing spondylitis can vary. Similar to other forms of arthritis, it often involves periods of mild to moderate inflammation followed by symptom-free periods.
Early recognition of these signs is crucial. The most common symptom is back pain in the morning and at night. Pain can also manifest in major joints like the hips and shoulders. Other potential symptoms include:
- Morning stiffness
- Poor posture or rounded shoulders
- Reduced appetite
- Mild fever
- Weight loss
- Anaemia or low iron levels
- Impaired lung function
Due to its inflammatory nature, ankylosing spondylitis can affect other parts of the body as well. Individuals with this condition may also experience:
- Bowel inflammation
- Eye inflammation
- Heart valve inflammation
- Plantar fasciitis and Achilles tendinitis
Health Disparities in Ankylosing Spondylitis
Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) is accompanied by certain health disparities that affect various groups within the population:
1. Gender Disparities: Diagnosing AS can be challenging, especially for women. The diagnostic process often takes longer in women, partly because AS is less likely to manifest on X-ray images in female patients. Additionally, healthcare providers may sometimes associate AS more with men, leading to delayed or missed diagnoses in women. Consequently, many women receive a diagnosis at a later stage of the disease, making it more challenging to manage effectively.
2. Racial and Ethnic Disparities: Black individuals have a lower likelihood of developing AS compared to some other racial and ethnic groups. However, when they do have the condition, it tends to be more severe and disabling. AS in Black individuals might also be underdiagnosed or overlooked because it is less common within this population.
3. Socioeconomic Disparities: Studies have revealed that individuals with lower social and economic statuses tend to experience more severe forms of AS. Furthermore, the condition is likely to have a more significant impact on their daily lives. Socioeconomic factors can influence access to healthcare, treatment options, and overall disease management, contributing to health disparities in AS.
Addressing these health disparities is crucial to ensure that individuals from all backgrounds receive timely and appropriate care for ankylosing spondylitis, leading to improved outcomes and quality of life.
Read Also: Buprenorphine 8mg With 460 Imprint Vs 54 411
When to Seek Medical Advice
If you experience severe or recurrent joint pain that disrupts your daily life, it’s advisable to seek medical attention. If your primary care physician suspects ankylosing spondylitis, they may recommend consulting a rheumatologist, or specialist in arthritis and musculoskeletal disorders.
Causes and Risk Factors of Ankylosing Spondylitis
The exact cause of ankylosing spondylitis remains unknown, but there is a strong genetic component. If this condition runs in your family, you have a higher risk of developing it compared to those without a family history.
Risk factors include:
- Family history: Over 90% of individuals with ankylosing spondylitis have the HLA-B27 gene.
- Age: Symptoms typically begin in younger adults, often between ages 20 and 40.
- Gender: It’s suggested to be more prevalent in males, but recent research indicates a more balanced occurrence, potentially leading to delayed diagnoses.
Complications of Ankylosing Spondylitis
Neglecting treatment for ankylosing spondylitis can lead to various complications, including:
- Vertebrae fusion, reducing spinal flexibility
- Inflammation spreading to neighbouring joints
- Ligament and tendon inflammation, worsening flexibility
- Breathing difficulties due to chronic inflammation
- Eye irritation from inflammation
- Organ damage, affecting the heart, lungs, or bowels
- Spinal compression fractures
Prompt treatment for persistent lower back pain or chronic joint stiffness is crucial to prevent these complications.
Around 10–30% of individuals with ankylosing spondylitis may experience heart complications, including heart valve disease, resulting from fibrous tissue growth near valves and arterial lining inflammation.
Treatment Options for Ankylosing Spondylitis
While there’s no cure for ankylosing spondylitis, treatment strategies aim to manage pain, improve functionality, and reduce the risk of disability. Early intervention can slow or halt the development of complications such as bone deformities.
Medical professionals may prescribe various medications based on the progression and severity of ankylosing spondylitis:
- NSAIDs (Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs)
- DMARDs (Disease-Modifying Antirheumatic Drugs)
Physical Therapy and Exercise
Physical therapy and regular exercise are crucial for managing ankylosing spondylitis, helping maintain joint flexibility, posture, and overall mobility.
Adopting a healthy lifestyle, including proper posture, relaxation techniques, and ergonomic aids, can contribute to managing the condition.
Surgery (in Severe Cases)
In cases of severe joint damage or complications, surgical interventions like joint replacements may be considered to enhance mobility and reduce pain.
Natural Approaches for Ankylosing Spondylitis
In addition to conventional medical treatments, several natural remedies can help alleviate ankylosing spondylitis symptoms. These approaches can complement prescribed treatment plans but should be discussed with your doctor for suitability:
- Posture training
- Heat and cold therapy
- Massage therapy
It’s important to remember that individual responses to these methods may vary, and it’s advisable to consult with your healthcare provider before incorporating new treatments, whether natural or conventional, into your personalized treatment plan.
We are sorry that this post was not useful for you!
Let us improve this post!
Tell us how we can improve this post?