Ankylosing spondylitis

Ankylosing spondylitis is a disease that causes chronic inflammation. It affects the spine and the sacroiliac joints. Sacroiliac joints are in the lower back located where the sacrum joins the iliac bones. The sacrum is the bone directly above the tailbone and the iliac bones are located on both sides of the upper buttocks. When a person has chronic inflammation of these joints it causes both stiffness and pain around and in the spine. After time, having the chronic spinal inflammation can cause the vertebrae to fuse or cement together. This fusion or cementing process is known as ankylosis. Once ankylosis occurs in the spine a person loses mobility of their spine. The chronic spinal inflammation is known as spondylitis. Often if the condition becomes really severe and the fusion occurs, the pain will lessen. However this can also mean that a person is more susceptible to having the bones break especially if too much force is placed against the area.

Unfortunately, ankylosing spondylitis is not only a chronic inflammatory disease but also a systemic disease. Systemic diseases affect several tissues throughout the body. This means that ankylosing spondylitis can cause inflammation or other damage to joints, tissues or organs that do not involve the spine. Some of the organs that can be affected are the heart, lungs, kidneys and eyes. Because ankylosing spondylitis causes symptoms that involve joints and muscles it is considered a rheumatic disease.

This disease is found more often in men than in woman but woman with the disease are more likely to have joints other than the spine affected by the inflammation. Ankylosing spondylitis can affect people of all ages. Children can be affected although it is common that the onset of symptoms do not present themselves in most people until they are in their 20’s and 30’s.

The treatment of ankylosing spondylitis involves the use of medications to reduce inflammation and/or suppress immunity to stop progression of the disease, physical therapy, and exercise. Medications decrease inflammation in the spine and other joints and organs. Physical therapy and exercise help improve posture, spine mobility, and lung capacity.

After ankylosing spondylitis is diagnosed, the next step is finding a treatment plan that works for the patient. Each patient suffering from this disease may have different symptoms or problem areas therefore the treatment needs to be based around each individuals needs. For managing pain, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as aspirin, are used. Other medications such as indomethacin, tolmetin, sulindac, naproxen and diclofenac are commonly used to decrease pain and stiffness of the spine and other joints as well. For patients that suffer from inflammation and pain in other joints away from the spine it may be necessary to use other medications that suppress the body’s immune system in conjunction with pain medications.

Since most medications usually cause their own symptoms and side effects, the use of some medications needs to be weighed against the pain and inflammation that the patient is already suffering from. Pain medications tend to cause abdominal pain and even ulcers when taken over long periods of time and medications used to suppress the immune system may cause toxicity to the liver or to the bone marrow. These conditions can lead to cirrhosis and severe anemia. For this reason frequent blood tests are required for some patients to make sure no further damage is being done to the body.

Unfortunately ankylosing spondylitis does not have a cure. Having ankylosing spondylitis can be a challenge but with proper medical treatment and supervision of a physician specializing in these types of diseases, ankylosing spondylitis can be managed.


Last updated on Sep 20th, 2009 and filed under Musculoskeletal Disorders. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

Comments are closed