What is it?

Ankylosing spondylitis (also called axial spondyloarthritis) is a type of arthritis that mainly affects the spine and neck. It can also affect the pelvis (also called sacroiliitis), heels and other joints, and damage tendons and ligaments. The inflammatory process over time causes the damaged bones to fuse, leading to a significant limitation in motility. The cause of the disease is unknown, but it is known to have a genetic (hereditary) basis.

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Additional names

This group contains additional names:
- Spinal Enthesopathy

Signs & symptoms

The symptoms of ankylosing spondylitis most often appear in early adulthood (usually before age 45) and gradually. The most common symptom is lower back pain, which occurs mainly with waking up (a characteristic called morning stiffness) and is relieved by movement. Over time, the mobility of the back becomes limited, and it is more difficult to perform forward and backward bending. Other joints may also be sore, including the pelvis, hips, heels and shoulders. Thickening of the fingers (dactylitis) may occur. Non-articular symptoms may also appear, such as eyes symptoms (pain, blurred vision) and rarely cardiac symptoms.

Diagnosis

Diagnosis of ankylosing spondylitis requires examination by a physician, which includes a medical history and a complete physical examination. An x-ray of the spine is usually necessary for diagnosis. In some cases, blood tests will also be performed, the purpose of which is to rule out other causes of symptoms.

Treatment

Treatment of ankylosing spondylitis aims to reduce the pain and improve the quality of life. Treatment will usually include:
- Lifestyle changes - Quitting smoking, maintaining a balanced diet rich in vitamin D and calcium (essential for maintaining bone health).
- Exercise - Adherence to exercise is a major part of treating ankylosing spondylitis, since it prevents the stiffening of the joints.
- physiotherapy
- Painkillers
- Surgery - Surgery will usually be performed only in exceptional cases where the usual treatment has not been sufficient to relieve the symptoms

☝️ This is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Please consult with your physician before making any medical decision.

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