Ankylosing Spondylitis

Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) is a form of arthritis that primarily affects the spine, especially the joints at the base of the spine.

Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) is different from other types of arthritis, because it involves inflammation where ligaments and tendons attach to the bone, rather than inside of joints.

Symptoms of AS include swelling and pain, often along the spine, and sometimes in the hands, feet, arms, and legs. It can be a very serious disease, and in advanced cases, cause damage to bones and deformities in the spine which lead to poor function of the shoulders and hips.

AS is hereditary. It tends to begin around the teens and twenties, and affects men more often than women. Family members of those with an AS diagnosis are more at risk of developing the disease, depending on whether they inherited a certain trigger gene. One half of one percent of all people in the U.S. have AS. Ethnicities from the far north (Alaskan and Siberian Eskimos and Scandinavian Lapps) have a higher frequency of the trigger gene (HLA-B27) than the general population. AS also occurs more often in certain Native American tribes in the western U.S. and Canada. African Americans are less affected than by AS than other races.

Our rheumatologists can help to diagnose whether or not you have AS. When you make an appointment, the physician will look at your medical history and do a physical exam. They may also order blood tests, an X-ray, or an MRI scan. Among the blood tests you may need is a test for the HLA-B27 gene. Finding this gene does not mean SA will automatically develop. Some people have the gene but do not have arthritis and never develop it.

For those with AS, pain, fatigue, and stiffness can be continuous, or can be off and on. Other problems can occur, or be aggravated by the disease. These include osteoporosis, inflammation in part of the eye, inflammation in a valve of the heart, a skin condition called psoriasis, or intestinal inflammation. Despite these symptoms, most patients with AS lead productive lives and have a normal lifespan, especially with the many new treatment options available.

All patients who have AS need physical therapy and joint-directed exercises. Movement that promotes spinal extension and mobility are especially recommended. Frequent exercise is also essential to maintaining heart health with AS. If you smoke, try to quit, as smoking aggravates AS.

If you have AS, we’ll begin treatments to stop the inflammation, relieve symptoms, and minimize permanent damage. We hope to improve your overall well-being and reduce long-term complications from the disease. Our goal is to help you be as strong as possible and to have the best possible quality of life.When you are ready to meet with the physician, please give us a call. Early and aggressive treatment can minimize long-term damage, so don’t delay. Make an appointment to learn how we can help with diagnosis, treatment, and management.

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