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Ankylosing spondylitis – Symptoms, causes, management options and more

Ankylosing spondylitis – Symptoms, causes, management options and more

Ankylosing spondylitis, also known as AS, is an inflammatory disorder that can cause the bones in the spine to fuse over time. This type of fusing can make the spine less flexible and result in poor posture. It can also lead to pain and trouble with movement and flexibility. In some cases, ankylosing spondylitis can also affect the ribs and make it difficult to breathe. Read on to learn more about this condition.

There are different signs and symptoms of ankylosing spondylitis. Each individual may have different symptoms and even experience the condition differently. Some may experience the worst or rare symptoms. Some early signs of ankylosing spondylitis include stiffness and pain in the lower back. These signs are commonly seen in the morning or after long periods of inactivity, such as sitting down or lying down. Individuals may also experience neck pain or fatigue. Some of the common areas that are affected by AS include:

The vertebrae in the lower back
Areas where the tendons and ligaments connect to the bone
Hips and shoulder joints
The joint between the base of the spine and the pelvis

Individuals may also experience other symptoms such as:
Loss of appetite
Unexplained loss of weight
Pain in the abdomen
Troubles with vision
Rashes on skin
Trouble with breathing

Note that the symptoms of ankylosing spondylitis can worsen during flare-ups. The symptoms could also improve and go into remission at random intervals.

Experts have not pinpointed any singular or specific cause of ankylosing spondylitis. But, they have been able to learn that certain things could lead to the development of this condition. Studies have found that genetic factors play a significant role in AS. Most individuals with AS also have a leukocyte antigen-B gene (HLA-B) variation. This mutation leads to the production of a protein known as HLA-B27, which can increase the risk of this condition. But note that not all who have this gene have AS. Ankylosing spondylitis can also be secondary to Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, and psoriasis.

Complications of ankylosing spondylitis
This condition can affect more than just the spine. It could also lead to inflammation in other joints, shoulders, hips, knees, and even ribs. Many individuals who have AS are also prone to fractures in the spine. Some of the other complications of this condition include:

Inflammation in the eye and sensitivity to light
Inflammation in the jaw
Heart diseases
Fused vertebrae

Treatment options
There is no cure for AS. All available treatments focus on relieving pain and tackling stiffness to ensure that the individual can live their daily life. They also work to prevent or delay any form of deformity in the spine. This treatment works well if it is taken before the condition leads to any irreversible damage. Here are some of the most common modes of treatment for AS:

Oral treatment
Doctors usually prescribe this mode of treatment to tackle the symptoms of ankylosing spondylitis. They help relieve pain and inflammation in the joints and even tackle stiffness. But, in some cases, these treatments could also lead to gastrointestinal bleeding. Doctors may prescribe injectable treatments if these oral treatments are not helpful or sufficient. These can be injected into the skin or administered through an intravenous line. These treatments could make you more prone to infections.

Physical therapy can provide several benefits; patients may experience pain relief, improved strength, and better flexibility. The doctor can also suggest a wide range of static and dynamic movements that suit your needs. Most of the therapy for AS is mainly focused on good posture. Common exercises include range-of-motion, stretching exercises, strengthening exercises of the back and the abdominal area, proper sleeping, and walking positions.

Surgery is the last mode of treatment for ankylosing spondylitis. It is only recommended for severe pain or if the hip joint is severely damaged and needs replacement.

Foods to eat
Individuals can also try changing their food and meal plans to support their bodies. Certain foods can help reduce inflammation and ease the symptoms of this condition.

Fruits and veggies
These foods contain tons of vitamins and minerals and make a great alternative to snacks with no nutritional value. You can add leafy veggies such as kale, collard greens, spinach, and cabbage to your meals. You can also add fruits such as watermelons, bananas, and more to your daily meals.

Whole grain foods
Whole grain foods are high in fiber and can also help decrease inflammation. However, some whole grains could trigger symptoms in individuals with arthritis. You can try oatmeal, popcorn, millet, barley, and more.

Foods with omega-3 fatty acids
Some studies have shown that omega-3 fatty acids could reduce disease activity in individuals with AS. Foods such as salmon, herring, mackerel, flaxseed, soybean, and even walnuts are rich sources of omega-3 fatty acids.