Ankylosing Spondylitis, or AS, is a chronically painful and debilitating autoimmune disorder that begins at the base of the spine before spreading further throughout the body as we age or progress through the disease.
AS is notoriously tricky to diagnose. It can be especially problematic to treat due to the severe inflammation and pain that can mimic the symptoms of more widespread arthritic diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis.
Many people who suffer from this disease don't even realize that they have it, and those who do have it find it difficult to treat without serious pain medication. How do you know if you are suffering from AS, and what can you do about it?
What Exactly Is Ankylosing Spondylitis?
AS is usually genetic, but not always, and its particular symptoms differ slightly from other arthritic diseases. You can't prevent the disease itself, but you can avoid further pain and inflammation that cause the condition to worsen.
The HLA-B27 protein that affects the body's response to inflammation is a genetic marker that can help doctors identify whether you have the disease. Not everyone who carries the protein has the disease, but around 90% do, and it can be identified with a specific blood test.
AS is not a new disease. However, many doctors still argue about its symptoms and prevalence in society. Many people call it the hunchback disease due to the HLA protein that causes calcification along the spine, turning it into a rod that bends the back forward in more extreme cases. Symptoms are vast, but there are several that most diagnosed patients will share.
What Are the Symptoms of Ankylosing Spondylitis?
- Morning pain and stiffness
- Hunched back and poor posture
- Long-lasting and low-grade fever
- Trouble breathing
This disease was once thought to affect mostly males, but more recent studies have found that females can inherit this disease just as quickly but may suffer from other various symptoms. The earlier a person is diagnosed, the better their quality of life.
How Does Ankylosing Spondylitis Affect The Rest Of Your Body?
The hunchback character in The Hunchback Of Notre Dame and the uncle in The Secret Garden are early representations of people who suffer from this disease. These characters are portrayed realistically as Ankylosing Spondylitis increases anxiety and depression, leading the suffering person to hide from a society that views them as outcasts since the disease is rare, affecting around .2% of the population.
As the disease progresses, irritable bowel syndrome is common, along with the fusion of individual vertebrae through the calcification of spinal fluid tends to occur. Inflammation can spread to the hips, shoulders, neck, fingers, and other joints, ligaments, and tendons,
Uveitis is very common, and your spine is subject to fractures. Ankylosing Spondylitis can weaken the heart and constrict your rib cage, making breathing more and more difficult. Early intervention and daily physical therapy are essential, but many sufferers are prescribed painkillers and medications created for other arthritic diseases that don't always work to control pain and inflammation.
Other treatment options are available to lessen your pain and discomfort.
What Are Treatment Options for Ankylosing Spondylitis?
Back pain is one of the most prevalent non-emergency pain conditions that someone can have, and effective treatment to lessen your pain is essential for your quality of everyday life. Targeted treatment and specialized physical therapy have proved very helpful.
Caudal Steroid Injections in the sacroiliac joints may be helpful, as well as an Intrathecal Pump Implant to release medication slowly and directly where it hurts the most. Spinal Cord Stimulation has proven very helpful in AS patients as well. You have options, and you don't have to be in constant pain anymore.
The Pain Center Can Help
The Pain Center wants to help you get back to the joy of living an active life with your friends and family. Contact us to relieve your discomfort and to show you how to live your best life. We have offices in Boise and Caldwell, and you can call us anytime at (208) 342-9800 to schedule an initial evaluation of your condition. All insurance plans are accepted.