Arthritis is a group of diseases that makes your joints hurt, swell up, and turn red. There are many different types of arthritis.
What is ankylosing spondylitis?
Spondylitis is arthritis of the spine. Ankylosing means stiffened. So ankylosing spondylitis is a type of arthritis that makes your spine painful and stiff.
Ankylosing spondylitis, in addition to affecting your spine, also causes swelling, stiffness, and pain in your large joints, fingers, and toes
Sometimes it affects other parts of your body, including your eyes, lungs, and certain blood vessels
Doctors can tell if you have ankylosing spondylitis based on symptoms and x-rays
Medicines may help your pain and stiffness
Ankylosing spondylitis is 3 times more common in men than women. It usually starts in people between 20 and 40 years old.
What causes ankylosing spondylitis?
Doctors don’t know exactly what causes ankylosing spondylitis.
You're more likely to get ankylosing spondylitis if someone in your family has it.
What are the symptoms of ankylosing spondylitis?
The most common symptoms are:
Back pain that's usually worse at night and in the morning
Back stiffness in the morning that gets better once you start moving around
Sometimes, the arthritis isn't in your back at first, and you start with pain in your hips, knees, or shoulders.
Along with the back and joint pain, you may feel generally sick with symptoms like:
Feeling tired and run down
No appetite and losing weight
After awhile, if the back problem gets worse, you may have:
A permanent bent-over posture
A stiff, straight spine
Pressure on the nerves coming out of your spine, causing numbness, tingling, pain, and weakness in your legs
You might also have problems that don't involve your back or joints. For example, you may have:
Heart problems causing chest pain, trouble breathing, or an abnormal heart rhythm
Lung problems causing cough and trouble breathing
Most people with ankylosing spondylitis develop some disabilities but can still lead normal lives. Some people, such as those with extreme stiffness in their spine, become more disabled.
How can doctors tell if I have ankylosing spondylitis?
Doctors can tell if you have ankylosing spondylitis based on your symptoms and family history and by doing an exam. They will also do tests:
How do doctors treat ankylosing spondylitis?
Doctors will give you nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs) and treatments to:
Help with your back and joint pain
Keep your joints movable
Stop or fix changes in your spine
Help you keep your proper posture and have strong back muscles
Avoid damage in your other organs
If you have more severe ankylosing spondylitis, doctors may give you biologic medicines. These work on your immune system Overview of the Immune System The immune system is your body's defense system. It helps protect you from illness and infection. The immune system's job is to attack things that don’t belong in your body, including: Germs... read more to lessen inflammation.
If you have eye problems, doctors may prescribe eye drops.
In addition to medicines, doctors may suggest:
Physical therapy and daily exercises to strengthen your muscles and stop the tendency to bend and stoop
Quitting or avoiding smoking
Rarely, hip replacement surgery, if your hips become fixed in a bent position
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