Ankylosing spondylitis is an inflammatory disease that primarily affects the spine, causing the joints to fuse together. In severe cases, ankylosing spondylitis can cause the spine to fuse in a bent position, resulting in chronic pain and a hunched posture. Though there is no cure for the condition, early treatment can lessen the extent and severity of a patient’s symptoms.
Dr. Susan Baker is a Board-certified rheumatologist and internist in Beverly Hills who specializes in rare diseases relating to connective tissues. To schedule a consultation with Dr. Baker, please contact us by calling (310) 274-7770 or filling out the online contact form today.
What is Ankylosing Spondylitis?
Although other joints are sometimes affected, ankylosing spondylitis is a type of arthritis that mainly affects the spine. Though the exact cause is not known, many surgeons and researchers theorize that specific genetic factors play a role in the formation and development of the disease. Patients with the gene HLA-B27 have historically been at a higher risk of ankylosing spondylitis than patients without the gene. However, it’s important to note that even patients without HLA-B27 can develope the condition.
The best way to diagnose and test for ankylosing spondylitis is by contacting a rheumatologist like Dr. Baker today.
Symptoms of Ankylosing Spondylitis
Initially, signs and symptoms of ankylosing spondylitis can include pain or stiffness in the lower back. With time, however, this pain and discomfort can increase in frequency and severity if treatment is not provided. Areas of the body most commonly affected by ankylosing spondylitis include the following:
- The joints between the spine and pelvis
- Vertebrae in the lower back
- Cartilage between the breastbone and ribs
- Hip and shoulder joints
Symptoms of ankylosing spondylitis can take on a variety of forms, and if left untreated, the disease can affect a patient’s posture and result in chronic pain. Since there is no cure for the condition, early identification of signs and symptoms is paramount when treating the disease. If you suffer from any of the following symptoms, it’s possible that you are in the early stages of ankylosing spondylitis.
Pain and stiffness in the lower back
Ankylosing spondylitis often begins in the lower back, particularly where the lowest part of the spine joins the pelvis. Early symptoms of the disease often include pain and stiffness in the lower back or buttocks.
The inflammation of spinal joints leads to new bone formation on the spine (which ultimately results in a spine that’s fused in a bent or forward-stooped position). This abnormal joining of bones is called “bony fusion,” and it a major symptom of ankylosing spondylitis. If this fusion occurs on the ribs, patients can experience difficulty breathing.
In addition to affecting the spine and various joints throughout the body, ankylosing spondylitis can also affect ligaments and tendons. When the tendons are inflamed, patients with ankylosing spondylitis can experience pain and stiffness in their ankles, heels, and other parts of their body.
If patients find their pain worsening with rest, they should seek medical attention from a Board-certified rheumatologist like Dr. Baker. With proper care and treatment, the severity of ankylosing spondylitis can be lessened and patients can enjoy freedom from back and joint pain.
Treatment for Ankylosing Spondylitis
Ankylosing spondylitis is an irreversible and incurable rheumatological condition, which is why early diagnosis is so valuable when treating the disease. If ankylosing spondylitis is treated early enough, complications and spinal deformity can be delayed and pain can be relieved.
At her office in Beverly Hills, rheumatologist Dr. Baker performs the following treatment options for patients with ankylosing spondylitis:
Anti-inflammatory drugs are typically the first line of treatment for ankylosing spondylitis. These medications relieve the inflammation and stiffness that can occur in a patient’s joints, ligaments, and tendons.
Other forms of medication include tumor necrosis factor (TNF) blockers. TNF blockers are injected into the body, where they target the cell protein that causes inflammation. If successful, TNF blockers reduce pain, stiffness, and swelling within the joints.
Therapy is another form of treatment for individuals with ankylosing spondylitis. Physical therapists use range-of-motion and stretching exercises to maintain joint flexibility as well as to maintain a proper posture.
To learn more about ankylosing spondylitis treatment, visit WebMD.com.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Who is at risk for developing ankylosing spondylitis?
A: Younger men are more likely to develop ankylosing spondylitis, particularly individuals in their teens and twenties. Although most patients with the gene HLA-B27 have ankylosing spondylitis, the condition can develop in individuals without this specific gene.
Q: What are some other complications of ankylosing spondylitis?
A: Although pain and stiffness are the main symptoms of ankylosing spondylitis, other complications can take the forms of eye inflammation, compression fractures, and even heart problems.
Contact Dr. Baker Today!
If you are suffering from ankylosing spondylitis, or if you are exhibiting symptoms of the disease, please call Dr. Susan Baker today or contact her online. Board-certified in rheumatology, Dr. Baker can diagnose and treat your condition, ensuring that you live a life free of the pain and suffering associated with ankylosing spondylitis.
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