Ankylosing Spondylitis is an inflammatory disease that causes pain and inflammation in the spine‚Äôs vertebrae and the joints between the spine and pelvis. It can also cause pain in other areas of the body. Another name for this condition is rheumatoid Spondylitis. It is a form of arthritis that is chronic and has no cure. Symptoms are sometimes misread and diagnosed as common back problems. Depending on the level of discomfort tests can be run to determine the exact cause and source of pain. X-rays can be used to check for issues in the bones and joints. MRIs can be run to look for inflammation or changes in the joints. Blood tests are also effective in checking for inflammation. The speed at which red blood cells settle at the bottom of a tube of blood can help determine if there is inflammation in the body.
In blood tests, a physician will also check for a specific inherited gene, HLA-B27. While this gene is not the exact cause of the condition, it does increase the risk for development. The exact cause of this disease is not known but approximately 90% of patients with the disease also have the HLA-B27 gene. Other genes that play a roll in influencing the function of the immune system have also been linked to persons diagnosed with this disease. Those genes are ARTS1 and IL23R. Since inflammation is an active response of the immune system, it is believed that these genes play an important link in the cause.
Ankylosing Spondylitis symptoms increase with the progression of the disease. The first signs of the condition will include stiffness in the lower back or hip area. Chronic pain will also be experienced in these areas after long periods of inactivity. As the condition changes over time, ankylosing Spondylitis symptoms will progress up the spine and on to other joints. Joints between the ribs and spine will become painful as well as those in the hips, knees, feet, and shoulders. Advanced stages will result in feelings of fatigue, loss of appetite, stooping, eye inflammation, and bowel inflammation.
The goal of Ankylosing Spondylitis treatment is to minimize pain and prevent further complications. A high success rate for treatment is noticed when used in patients who have not yet developed bone fusions. Medications are the first form of Ankylosing Spondylitis treatment used. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are first prescribed to reduce inflammation and swelling. Other medication used to treat inflamed joints are Disease modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs).
Steroid injections can be used to slow the progression of joint damage but can only be used for a limited time due to side effects. TNK blockers or tumor necrosis factor act as inflammatory agents and block proteins to help reduce swollen and painful joints. Surgery can be performed but in most cases it is not recommended. It is used only if there is severe pain or a joint needs to be replaced.
Checking for inherited genes should be the first step in determining a diagnosis. While medications can be prescribed to fight symptoms of the disease, there is no cure for the pain and swelling cause to the joints in the spine because of Ankylosing Spondylitis.