Spinal Conditions

Ankylosing Spondylitis

Ankylosing Spondylitis

Ankylosing Spondylitis: form of arthritis affecting lower back and/or hips; causes severe, chronic pain and discomfort.

Ankylosing spondylitis, a condition affecting the vertebrae, is characterized by inflammation of the spinal column leading to fusion of individual vertebrae. This article aims to explore this condition and its impact on patients.

What is Ankylosing Spondylitis?

Ankylosing spondylitis is an inflammatory disorder of the spinal column, resulting in fusion of vertebrae and forward bending of the spine. It predominantly affects men and typically begins in early adulthood.

Causes of Ankylosing Spondylitis

Research indicates that ankylosing spondylitis is hereditary, with a genetic basis, notably linked to the HLA B27 gene.

Symptoms

Initially, symptoms may be subtle, but as the condition progresses, individuals may experience pain and stiffness in the lower back and hips. While the lower back and hips are commonly affected, the entire spine can become involved over time. Other areas, such as the shoulder joint, chest cartilage, and heel cartilage, may also be affected.

Diagnosis

An X-ray of the spine, often revealing a “bamboo spine” appearance, aids in diagnosis. Clinical examination involves assessing spinal movements to gauge flexibility loss associated with ankylosing spondylitis. Lung capacity studies may be conducted. While specific laboratory tests for diagnosis are lacking, genetic studies may indicate the presence of the HLA B27 gene. However, its presence doesn’t definitively diagnose ankylosing spondylitis. In some cases, an MRI may assist in diagnosis.

Treatment

Treatment goals focus on pain reduction and mobility restoration. Lifestyle changes like smoking cessation and weight management are recommended. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are effective in early stages. If NSAIDs are ineffective, tumor necrosis factor blockers (TNF blockers) may be prescribed by a rheumatologist. Physiotherapy, including range of motion exercises and stretches, aims to maintain posture and prevent further deterioration. Surgical correction may be necessary for advanced cases unresponsive to medical or physiotherapeutic interventions.

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