A few weeks ago I came out about my recent diagnoses (osteoarthritis and Ankylosing Spondylitis). While many people were very supportive, others sent me lots of questions asking me what Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS) is…and instead of answering every single person individually…I decided to put this as my second blog post.
AS is an anti-inflammatory disease in your spine. In the spine there are vertebrae’s and this disease takes out the mobility when the vertebrae’s are fused together.
More men are diagnosed with this than women and it can show symptoms as early as ‘early-adulthood,’.
Early signs and symptoms of ankylosing spondylitis may include pain and stiffness in your lower back and hips, especially in the morning and after periods of inactivity. Over time, symptoms may worsen, improve or stop completely at irregular intervals.
The areas most commonly affected are:
- The joint between the base of your spine and your pelvis
- The vertebrae in your lower back
- The places where your tendons and ligaments attach to bones, mainly in your spine, but sometimes along the back of your heel
- The cartilage between your breastbone and ribs
- Your hip and shoulder joints
- tenderness at the heel – This makes it uncomfortable to stand on a hard floor. Inflammation can occur at the back of your heel where the Achilles tendon meets the heel bone, or in the tendon in the arch of the foot which is known as plantar fasciitis.
- pain and swelling in a finger or toe – When the whole digit is swollen it’s known as dactylitis.
- tenderness at the base of your pelvis (ischium) – This makes sitting uncomfortable.
- chest pain or a ‘strapped-in’ feeling that comes on gradually – If your spine is affected at chest level (the thoracic spine) it can affect movement at the joints between the ribs and the breastbone, which makes it difficult for you to take a deep breath. Your ribs may be very tender, and you may feel short of breath after even gentle activity. Coughing or sneezing may cause discomfort or pain.
- inflammation of the eye (uveitis or iritis) – The first signs of this are usually a red (bloodshot), watery and painful eye, and it may become uncomfortable to look at bright lights. If this happens, or if you develop blurred vision, it’s important to get medical help within 24–48 hours. The best place to go is an eye casualty department – this might not be at your local hospital. Your GP surgery, local A+E or your optician will know where the nearest eye casualty department is. Treatment is usually with steroid eye drops, which are generally very effective. Some people get repeated attacks of eye inflammation, but they’re extremely unlikely to cause permanent damage if they’re treated promptly.
- inflammation of the bowel – People with ankylosing spondylitis can develop bowel problems known as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) or colitis. Tell your doctor if you have diarrhoea for more than 2 weeks or begin to pass bloody or slimy stools. You might be referred to a bowel specialist (gastroenterologist). Symptoms of IBD can vary, but it can usually be treated successfully with medication. Sometimes treatments like non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can make bowel problems worse, so you might be advised to stop taking them.
- tiredness (fatigue) – This may be caused by the activity of the condition, anaemia or sometimes depression and frustration associated with the condition.
How it is diagnosed: There is no known cause to this disease however those who test positive on the HLA-B27 (blood test) are more likely to carry the genes of this disease. MRI’s and X-Rays are also used (and the MRIs can show the disease-but are extremely expensive).
To learn more about the disease: Follow the Links to the two websites I have used to make sure the information was verified before posting. (Both links can be found where the symptoms are posted. The first *general symptoms* is from the Mayo Clinic and the *Other Symptoms* is from Arthritis Research UK.
If you believe that you have this condition. Please contact your doctor. This post is in no way to be used as a self-diagnosis. It is to give general information on the disease and whether or not you should take the next steps forward.