Ankylosing spondylitis is a form of arthritis that affects both the spine, sacroiliac joints, and the lower back.
What is Ankylosing Spondylitis?
As we stated, theinflammatory condition is a type of arthritis which affects the spine and lower back area. Ankylosing spondylitis entails the erosion of the patient’s bone and causes increased bone formation within the spine – often leading to a bad spinal deformity.
Ankylosing spondylitis occurs most commonly in teens and men in their early-mid 20s – but it can affect anyone of any age. In women, however, the condition is rare, and much milder and more difficult to diagnose.
Causes of Ankylosing Spondylitis
The primary cause of Ankylosing Spondylitis is still fairly unclear, however many of its characteristic symptoms stem from inflammation in the lumbar spine (lower back).
When new bone material begins to grow, inflammation occurs – this can lead to damage and bone fusion. Fusion occurs as a byproduct of the inflammation of the surrounding tissue connected to the bones.
Ankylosing Spondylitis is also thought to have a genetic component, as cases tend to run in families.
The majority of symptoms associated with Ankylosing Spondylitis are a result of inflammation in the spinal tissue. These symptoms include:
- Moderate to Severe Pain – Especially in the lower back and buttocks.
- Back Stiffness
- Lack of Mobility & Movement
- Poor Flexibility
- Fatigue & Lack of Energy
- Joint Issues
- Impaired Vision & Eye Issues – Inflammation in the iris, eye redness, and eye pain.
- Cardiovascular Issues
- Possible Spinal Deformity (in rare cases)
In many instances, pain and inflammation are initially concentrated in the spine, however, these issues have a tendency to spread to other areas of the body as well; including:
- Neck & Upper Back
- The Shins
- The Heel & Achilles Tendon Area
- Other Joints Throughout the Body
One of the major issues associated with Ankylosing Spondylitis is that there is no way to reverse the damage already done to your bones and joints. Also, there is no true cure for Ankylosing Spondylitis, however, there are a number of treatment options available to both alleviate your symptoms and help to curb the progression of these symptoms.
In addition, patients who suffer from Ankylosing Spondylitis can experience a wide range of symptoms, not just affecting the spine. Therefore, it is important that they meet with different specialists to deal with those specific symptoms as well. Eye specialists, cardiologists and possible even a gastroenterologist may help.
Non-Surgical Options include:
- Physical Therapy & Exercise – Designed to improve posture and joint flexibility.
- Medication – Anti-Inflammatory drugs and pain relievers, used in conjunction. Other possible medications include – anti-rheumatic drugs and tumor necrosis factor (TNF) antagonists.
- Spinal Injections – Epidurals and corticosteroids to limit inflammation.
In the treatment of Ankylosing Spondylitis, surgery is rarely used and is generally designed to correct a spinal deformity or joint issue, that may develop as a result. In even rarer cases, Ankylosing Spondylitis can cause nerve compression as well, therefore decompression surgery may be needed.
- Decompression Surgery – Laminectomy in order to relieve compression of the nerve root.
- Spinal Fusion – In order to correct the deformity.
- Spinal Instrumentation – Also used to correct the spinal deformity, often combined with spinal fusion.
For more information on Ankylosing Spondylitis, other spinal conditions, or to schedule a consultation, contact Dr. Arutyunyan today.