One of the greatest challenges one might joke about ankylosing spondylitis is how to pronounce the name of this disease! However, ankylosing spondylitis is no laughing matter.
It is a chronic inflammatory disease that causes pain and inflammation of the joints that are between the vertebrae of the spine and the joints between the spine and the pelvis. It can also affect other areas of the body, as well.
Medical circles also refer to this condition as spondylitis or rheumatoid spondylitis. A chronic condition, treatments can offer one some relieve from pain and a reduction in symptoms. When the treatment is proven effective, it can also help to prevent any complications and physical deformities that can be associated with ankylosing spondylitis.
Some of the early signs of this disease are chronic pain in the lower back and hips which is predominant in the morning and after extended periods of inactivity. The back or hips may also become stiff. Over time, the symptoms can become worse, improve, or simply stop. The pain can also progress up the spine and to other joints. Extended inflammation may present, too.
Other areas that can be affected as this disease progresses include the tendons and ligaments attached to the bones, the joints between the ribs and the spine, the joints in the hips, shoulders, knees, and feet, and even in the eyes.
As the disease progresses, other symptoms will arise, such as chronic stooping, a stiff spine, fatigue, restricted expansion of the chest, decrease in appetite, weight loss, inflammation of the eyes and of the bowels. It is imperative that one sees a doctor if (1) any of these symptoms are present or (2) one has already been diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis but the symptoms have increased. With respect to the eyes, one may experience eye pain, sensitivity to light, or blurred vision.
While there is no known specific cause for this disease, genetics do seem to play a significant role. In fact, people who have a gene called HLA-B27 are at a greater risk for developing ankylosing spondylitis. As the disease worsens, new bone will form as a response by the body in an attempt to heal itself.