Kumaresh (26-years-old) works in an IT firm in Kolkata. Over the past few days, Kumaresh has been suffering from lower back and hip pain. He took some OTC medications, and the pain subsided. But again after a few days, it came back. While discussing with his friend, he came to know that his signs are indicating ankylosing spondylitis symptoms and he should consult a doctor. The doctor advised him of some tests and he came positive for HLAB-27. Now, he is following the doctor’s guidance and advice for his ankylosing spondylitis treatment.
Ankylosing spondylitis is a type of arthritis that is responsible for your lower back and hip pain. In this type of spondylitis, your back pain may come and go. Over time, vertebrae in the spinal column may get fused and become rigid (ankylosis).
What is Ankylosing Spondylitis?
Ankylosing spondylitis is a type of arthritis that produces chronic inflammation of the spine. This arthritis inflames the sacroiliac joints that are situated between the base of the spine and pelvis. The inflammation is known as sacroiliitis and it is the prime sign of ankylosing spondylitis. The inflammation may reach vertebrae, and this may lead to spondylitis.
Ankylosing spondylitis is more prominent in men than women. The symptoms may appear between 17-45 years. Nearly 95% of people who are suffering from ankylosing spondylitis may own a variation of the human leukocyte antigen-B gene (HLA-B). This altered or mutated gene makes a protein called HLA-B27 that enhances the risk of the disease.
Ankylosing Spondylitis Diagnosis
What ankylosing spondylitis tests will help you to diagnose the disease? Your doctor will perform a physical examination after evaluating your symptoms and family history. Your doctor may recommend some tests for further examination.
- Imaging scans: MRI scans are very effective in detecting spine issues earlier than conventional X-rays. To rule out other root causes, your doctor may advise you for a spine x-ray.
- Blood tests: Blood tests will detect whether you have the HLA-B27 gene or not.
Ankylosing Spondylitis Symptoms
At the initial phase, you may experience symptoms like:
- Stiffness, pain, and inflammation in your lower back particularly in the early morning (for 30 minutes) and the condition will improve with your activities
- Severe pain that can hamper your sleep
- Pain in one or both buttocks or the backs of the thighs
Very often, people get confused with common backaches. But ankylosing spondylitis pain is more excruciating and also long-lasting than normal backache. Some people may experience pain, firmness, and inflammation in their knees or ankles.
Other symptoms are
- Tenderness at the heel of your foot
- Pain and inflammation in a finger or toe
- Soreness at the base of your pelvis (you may not sit properly on a hard surface or chair)
- On and off chest pain or tightness (you may feel difficulties while breathing. You may experience shortness of breath even after a small activity)
- Coughing or sneezing
- Inflammation of the bowel (People who are having ankylosing spondylitis may develop inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) or colitis. If you are having diarrhoea for more than two weeks, consult a doctor)
- Fatigue or severe tiredness that may not improve with sleep or rest (This condition may lead to anaemia)
- Depression and anxiety
- Eye inflammation called either uveitis or iritis (you may suffer from extreme pain and red-eye. It becomes more uncomfortable to look at bright lights.
- If you have ankylosing spondylitis, inform your doctor so that he/she can start the treatment procedures immediately.
- Some people with ankylosing spondylitis develop osteoporosis (a condition where your bones become thin and likely to brittle easily)
- If you have ankylosing spondylitis, you are more vulnerable to certain heart problems like a heart attack or a stroke. Take medications that can reduce your inflammation and follow a healthy diet
- Very rare, your lungs may become scarred if your chest is affected by ankylosing spondylitis
Ankylosing Spondylitis Treatment
Ankylosing spondylitis is a lifetime condition that has no cure. But you can manage the pain, symptoms, and joint damage.
Exercise: Regular physical activities are recommended for people who have ankylosing spondylitis. If you remain inactive, your pain will get aggravated. Your doctor will advise some safe exercises.
Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs): NSAIDs like ibuprofen and naproxen are effective in treating pain and inflammation.
Disease-modifying Anti-Rheumatic Drugs (DMARDs): Some medicines sulfasalazine may minimize pain and inflammation. This drug is also useful in treating lesions caused by inflammatory bowel disease. Newer DMARDs and biologics are also helping in reducing inflammation by changing the immune system.
Corticosteroids: Corticosteroid injections and medications will ease joint pain and inflammation.
Surgery: Only a few people with ankylosing spondylitis may need surgery. Some people may need to perform hip or knee replacement if these joints are badly affected.
Some Other Recommendations
Eat a Nutritious Diet: People who are suffering from ankylosing spondylitis should avoid processed meats and foods that contain high fat and sugar. Consume an anti-inflammatory diet like the Mediterranean diet to manage inflammation.
Maintain a Healthy Weight: Try to lose weight if you are obese. Excess weight may put pressure on joints and bones.
Restrict Alcohol Consumption: Don’t consume too much alcohol, as this can weaken your bones and enhance the risk of osteoporosis.
Stop Smoking: Tobacco aggravates spinal damage and worsens the pain. Quit smoking if you have ankylosing spondylitis.
Ankylosing spondylitis is a lifelong condition that mostly affects your spine. Though there is no cure for this condition, by taking medications, a healthy diet, and exercise, you can manage the symptoms (pain, swelling, stiffness, etc.) to some extent and can lead a wholesome life.