Everyone has heard of many common diseases. Information about the flu is well known and part of the social lexicon. When it comes to widespread and common diseases, there may be too much information really. Then there are more interesting and rare diseases. These can be shrouded in mystery. Somewhere in the middle are conditions that are not rare, but certainly not common. Misinformation can be very common for these.
Ankylosing spondylitis is one of these diseases. It’s far from rare, but certainly not a condition that most people would list if they were asked to come up with five diseases quickly. Consequently, many people don’t know that much about this disease. It’s actually a very interesting disease. What follows are some facts and information about ankylosing spondylitis to help education more people on this interesting disease.
People often think of spinal conditions and don’t recognize that it could be something as common and simplistic as “arthritis”. There are many different types of arthritis that can affect a human being. Specifically, ankylosing spondylitis causes inflammation around the bones of the spinal column. This inflammation is the trademark of arthritis affecting bones and joints. Much like arthritis, people with ankylosing spondylitis often feel the most pain and stiffness after periods of little movement. This includes times like watching a movie or overnight during sleep!
While it’s also known as “arthritis of the spine”, that doesn’t mean that ankylosing spondylitis is only ever located or affects the spine. It’s common for other aspects as well. Hips and shoulder joints can both suffer from inflammation and stiffness. The ribs can be affected as well, causing the lungs to be affected and unable to properly expand to their full size. Sometimes, the aorta can be affected causing heart problems to surface. Eye inflammation is also possible.
Symptoms usually work in one of two ways. Either they start lightly, then progress and get worse over time, or they come and go in “flare ups”. The symptoms of ankylosing spondylitis can do both of those and more. Once they have begun, it’s possible for symptoms to get worse. It’s possible for symptoms to show some improvement and seem like they are getting better. They can also disappear for a while and then come back at any severity level.
Like many conditions that are seemingly not the worst thing, there are many dangerous complications that can occur if you have ankylosing spondylitis. Eye inflammation is a dangerous and common complication. This can result in dangerous blurred vision and pain in the eyes. Compression fractures can also occur in the spine due to weak vertebrae. As mentioned earlier, the heart can be affected, with aorta and valve issues in the heart. In bad cases, it’s possible for the vertebrae to fuse together as well, heavily damaging movement.
There’s a few things that can be done to help with ankylosing spondylitis. Medication is a great and important step in most cases to help manage the pain and inflammation that comes with it. However, physical therapy is just as important. Maintaining strength in the muscles reduces the stress on the spine. One of the most important aspects of therapy is actually learning how to properly sleep. This means that you can be put in positions that cause the least amount of stiffness, in turn producing the least amount of pain!