The ankylosing spondylitis is a rheumatic disease characterized by inflammation of the joints that connect the spine to the pelvis.
The main symptoms are pain and stiffness. As time passes and the disease progresses, the signs can be more serious, such as loss of mobility or deformity of the joint
Ankylosing spondylitis is a disease that affects 1% of the population. The current incidence is 7 new cases per 100,000 inhabitants per year. It begins during youth, usually between the ages of 20 and 30, and is more common in men than women.
The spine is one of the most important parts of the human body. It is the axis of the trunk and the one that supports the skull. In addition, it protects the spinal cord and the different nerves connected between the brain and the extremities.
The structure of the spine is divided into a total of five parts. On the one hand, a total of seven cervical vertebrae, which make up the neck. On the other hand, twelve dorsal vertebrae, which, together with the sternum and ribs, form the rib cage.
Also, five lumbar vertebrae. Also the sacrum , which joins the rest of the pelvis through a series of joints. And finally, the tailbone.
Ankylosing spondylitis: what is it?
Ankylosing spondylitis is a chronic type of arthritis . Although it can occur in any area of the body, in the vast majority of cases it affects the base of the spine, specifically in the area where it connects with the pelvis. The joints become swollen and inflamed, generating a great sensation of pain. In the most serious cases, if the proper treatment is not applied, the affected vertebrae can come together over time.
It is therefore a chronic inflammatory disease . There is no cure, so symptoms appear in flare-ups on a regular basis. The severity varies between patients, although a proper and timely diagnosis helps control symptoms and slow the progression of ankylosing spondylitis.
It is worth noting that this is a systemic disorder as there are other organs that can be affected: eye, heart and lungs.
What parts of the body does it affect?
As we have pointed out, this is a systemic disease, so it can manifest in other areas of the body.
- Beware: those who suffer from this disease may have a great sensitivity to light, and even blurred vision. The reason is that the iris becomes inflamed and red. It usually affects only one eye and lasts for one to two weeks. To avoid any type of sequela that reduces vision, it is important to go to the ophthalmologist to determine the most appropriate treatment.
- Heart: Ankylosing spondylitis can also cause a variety of heart muscle problems. This disease can increase the size of the aorta, the main artery in the body. A situation that prevents the heart from working properly.
- Lungs: the stiffness in the chest typical of this disorder causes difficulty in breathing, especially in smokers.
Causes of ankylosing spondylitis
To date, it is not known what the specific cause of ankylosing spondylitis is. However, there are a number of factors that predispose patients to suffer from it.
Some studies indicate that there is a certain genetic tendency. And it is that practically 100% of patients have a gene called HLA-B27 positive . However, having this gene does not necessarily mean suffering from ankylosing spondylitis.
It has also been shown that certain intestinal bacteria can promote the development of the disease.
Ankylosing spondylitis: symptoms
The first symptom of ankylosing spondylitis is low-intensity pain that occurs intermittently in the lower back. As the disease progresses, the pain becomes more and more recurrent and acute.
The pain is usually worse at night when the person is sleeping. In some cases the intensity is such that you can wake up, thus affecting the quality of sleep. A fact that significantly harms both the physical and mental health of the patient.
Although initially the pain is localized at the point where the spine and pelvis meet, over time it can affect the entire spine .
Another common symptom in people with ankylosing spondylitis is stiffness . The lower part of the spine progressively loses flexibility. Thus, as time passes, the affected person may take a hunchbacked position.
In some cases, ankylosing spondylitis causes inflammation in the intercostal joints and sternum, so that the patient cannot fully expand the chest. This gives rise to a feeling of fatigue at the slightest physical effort.
As we have pointed out, it is the lower part of the back that is affected by this disease. However, there are also other areas of the body that can be compromised. This is the case of the shoulder, knee and ankle joints , which can become inflamed and cause pain.
How is it diagnosed?
If one or more of the symptoms described in the previous section occur, it is important to see a doctor as soon as possible. An early diagnosis of the disease can slow its progress and minimize both pain and inflammation.
First, the doctor takes a medical history of the patient , paying attention to the symptoms. Thus, if you suspect that you have ankylosing spondylitis, refer you to a rheumatologist.
One of the most common medical tests for the diagnosis of the disease is the x-ray , both of the spine and of the pelvis. In addition, in some cases a blood and urine test is requested to check for the presence of the HLA-B27 gene.
In this way, the rheumatologist determines whether or not the patient suffers from the disease. Depending on the characteristics, as well as the phase in which it is and the degree of limitation of mobility of the joints, establishes the most appropriate treatment.
Treatment of ankylosing spondylitisday, ankylosing spondylitis is a disease that has no cure . However, there are a number of medical treatments that help minimize symptoms and slow down the progress of the disorder. The main objective is therefore to improve the quality of life of the patient, so that he can carry out his daily activities without suffering pain or stiffness.
Pharmacological treatment consists of the consumption of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen or aspirin. They allow to reduce both pain and inflammation.
In the most severe cases, in which the disease progresses at an accelerated rate, the use of corticosteroids may be recommended .
Physical therapy can be of great help to improve the lives of those with ankylosing spondylitis . The different exercises allow you to increase both strength and flexibility. It is important that the exercise plan is precisely adapted to the needs of each patient and covers each and every one of the affected areas.
Although in the vast majority of cases surgery is not necessary, it is another possible treatment option. It occurs in those patients whose joints are severely damaged , to the point of having lost more than 80% of their mobility.
Ankylosing spondylitis: life expectancy
The prognosis of the disease depends mainly on two factors: the age at which the first symptoms begin to appear and the moment of diagnosis .
In general, the prognosis is very positive. It is a progressive disorder, so that 95% of patients improve after treatment. However, the disease can cause a deterioration in the quality of life of those people who have not been diagnosed or in whom the diagnosis has been given too late.
It is important to note that the prognosis is worse when the disease begins to develop at an earlier age. In addition, women have a better evolution than men.
How to prevent ankylosing spondylitis?
Once a patient is diagnosed with the disease, the doctor recommends a series of guidelines to improve their quality of life. The most important thing is to accept that there are a number of limitations.
Of course, it is essential to avoid bad posture . When sitting down, you have to do it with your feet flat on the ground and your back straight. The use of girdles or corsets is not a good idea since they greatly limit the movements of the spine.
It is also not recommended to spend too much time sitting or lying in bed. If you have a job that requires you to spend many hours sitting, it is best to get up and take small walks every so often.
Considering that one of the main symptoms of ankylosing spondylitis is fatigue, it is advised not to smoke .
And finally, leading a healthy lifestyle is very important. To do this, you have to do moderate physical exercise on a daily basis, as well as eat a healthy and balanced diet.
The ankylosing spondylitis is a chronic disease that affects the joints of the base of the spine and pelvis. The main symptoms are pain, stiffness, and fatigue. An early diagnosis is essential so that the quality of life is not affected and that the prognosis in the medium and long term is positive.
Hello Readers, I am Nikki Bella a Psychology student. I have always been concerned about human behavior and the mental processes that lead us to act and think the way we do. My collaboration as an editor in the psychology area of Well Being Pole has allowed me to investigate further and expand my knowledge in the field of mental health; I have also acquired great knowledge about physical health and well-being, two fundamental bases that are directly related and are part of all mental health.