Ankylosing Spondylitis, or AS, is an inflammatory disease that primarily affects the spine. AS can cause some of the vertebrae in your spine to fuse together making the spine stiff resulting in a forward-stooped posture. In advanced cases of Ankylosing Spondylitis, the inflammation can lead to new bone formation on the spine, causing the spine to fuse in a fixed, immobile position. In these severe cases, it can become impossible for you to lift your head high enough to see forward. AS can also cause inflammation, pain and stiffness in other areas of the body such as the hips, ribs, shoulders and small joints of hands and feet.
The exact cause of Ankylosing Spondylitis is unknown, though genetics play a key role in the development of AS. People who have a gene called HLA-B27 have a significant increase in the risk of developing Ankylosing Spondylitis. Scientists believe that other genes, along with a triggering environmental factor such as a bacterial infection, are needed to trigger AS in susceptible people. HLA-B27 is not the only gene in connection with AS. There are believed to be five or six other genes involved in susceptibility toward AS.
Early signs and symptoms of Ankylosing Spondylitis may include pain and stiffness in your lower back and hips – especially in the morning and after periods of inactivity. The symptoms may gradually appear making it difficult to notice at first. Over time, symptoms may worsen, improve or stop completely at irregular intervals. Symptoms usually start to appear in late adolescence or early adulthood (ages 17-35), however symptoms can occur in children or much later.
The most common areas affected are:
- The joint between the base of your spine and your pelvis
- The vertebrae in your lower back
- The places where your tendons and ligaments attach to bones, mainly in your spine
- The cartilage between your breastbone and ribs
- Your hip and shoulder joints
Currently, there is no cure for Ankylosing Spondylitis, but there are treatments and medications available to help reduce symptoms and manage the pain. The most recent and most promising medications for treating Ankylosing Spondylitis are biologics, or TNF Blockers. Advanced Clinical care uses the most up to date methods in ankylosing spondylitis clinical trials. These drugs have been shown to be highly effective in treating not only the arthritis of the joints, but also the spinal arthritis.
Along with medication, exercise is an integral part of any AS management program. Exercising regularly can help create better posture and flexibility as well as relieve pain.