Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) is a type of progressive spinal arthritis. The spine contains 24 vertebrae and 110 joints and if you have AS, the joints can fuse together, causing pain and immobility. Sometimes the bones of the pelvis will also be affected. Sometimes the bowels, lungs, eyes or heart may be affected.
Sometimes sufferers have reported that bowel symptoms appeared to precede their AS.
Symptoms of Ankylosing Spondylitis
• Back pain and stiffness that has occurred over a period of months
• Worse pain in the morning, after you have been sleeping
• Night sweats
Heart Symptoms of AS
Getting heart problems as a result of AS is rare, and even if you do, most cases are so mild they cannot be detected. Very rarely, it may cause the aortic valve to leak.
Eye Symptoms of AS
Eye symptoms as a complication of AS is quite common, with 40 percent of sufferers having intermittent eye involvement. There can be inflammation of the iris and the uvea, called uveitis. This causes blurred vision, pain in the eye and bloodshot eyes. If this happens to you it can permanently damage your sight so you should go straight to ER instead of making a doctor’s appointment. There are specialist eye doctors in the ER who will be able to give you eye drops and tell you how to treat the uveitis. Prompt treatment is vitally important to safeguard your vision.
Lung Symptoms of AS
Ankylosing spondylitis can also affect the rib joints so that these cannot move as easily. This will mean that your lungs will not be able to expand properly and you may find breathing difficult or painful. If the rib joints become fixed, the lungs may be scarred.
To ease these symptoms, don’t smoke or quit smoking if you already do. Eat small meals regularly, rather than large meals and wear loose clothing.
Treatments for AS
• Anti-inflammatory painkillers.
• Acetaminophen (as some people will AS also have bowel symptoms that contraindicate the use of anti-inflammatories, they can take plain acetaminophen).
• Physical therapy – a physical therapist can tailor special exercises for you that are specifically aimed at AS. Movement reduces pain and increases mobility, but it’s important to talk to your physical therapist before you attempt your own exercise regime as some exercise could cause damage and they will know what types of exercise are safe.
Contact your local support group or organization for AS sufferers, as some of them sell exercise DVDs for people with AS and you can also make friends with other people going through the same thing.
See these websites for further information:
Joanna is a freelance health writer for The Mother magazine and Suite 101 with a column on infertility, http://infertility.suite101.com/. She is author of the book, 'Breast Milk: A Natural Immunisation,' and co-author of an educational resource on disabled parenting, in addition to running a charity for people damaged by vaccines or medical mistakes.