WHAT IS SPONDYLITIS?
Spondylitis (कशेरुकासन्धिशोथ in Hindi) is the inflammation of the tiny bone structures called vertebrae that form the spine. It is a broad term that is used to refer to several types of arthritis that usually is concerned with the back. Spondylitis involves one or more joints of the vertebra.
ANKYLOSING SPONDYLITIS AND ITS CAUSES
Ankylosing spondylitis is an inflammatory disease that, over time, can cause some of the small bones in your spine (vertebrae) to fuse, thereby making the spine rigid.
This type of spondylitis was studied and described by an Irish physician Bernard Connor in the late 1600s.
There are currently no scientific evidences for what causes this disease. However, it has been seen that people having a gene called HLA-B27 are at a higher risk of developing ankylosing spondylitis. Again, not everyone with this gene develops the disease.
How is Ankylosing Spondylitis clinically diagnosed?
There is no definitive test for detecting ankylosing spondylitis but imaging techniques like radiography and MRI helps to monitor the disease activity by detecting inflammation.
WHO ARE AT RISK?
In addition to the genetic factor mentioned above, other common risk factors involved are:
Ankylosing Spondylitis statistically affects men more than women
The ration of men to women that are affected by this disease is 2-3: 1
It is more difficult to diagnose women for this disease since they generally have pain in their neck and hips rather than the lower back.
Men are also known to have more severe symptoms and hospitalization rates for ankylosing spondylitis.
Statistically, 95% the patients of this disease belong to the age group of 46 years and below
The onset of this disease is typically in young adults.
It is also possible for children to be diagnosed, with 15% of the patients being under 15 years of age.
In the early stages of ankylosing spondylitis:
- Neck pain
- Neck and back stiffness
- Pain and fatigue in the lower back region
- Mild fever
- Loss of appetite
- General discomfort and tiredness
As the injury progresses, at later stages patients may also report:
- Severe pain that wakes them up at night
- Inflammation of the bowel
- Stomach pain, diarrhea and digestive problems
- Difficulty in breathing deeply if the ribs have been affected
If this disease is left untreated, the inflammation of the spine can even cause the vertebrae to fuse together leading to a reduced ability for physical movements, patients being bound to wheelchairs or bedridden and very severe back pains.
The inflammation may soon spread to other joints in your body including the ribs, shoulders and hips.
In the last stages of AS, one or more of these can develop:
- Uveitis: Causes rapid onset eye pain, redness, sensitivity to light and blurred vision.
- Susceptibility to fractures: Since the bones are weak and fragile, it leads to fractures. Fractures in the spinal cord area may damage the nerves.
- Heart problems: Ankylosing spondylitis can cause an inflamed aorta hampering the working of the heart.
WHAT CAN BE DONE?
There is currently no permanent cure for Ankylosing spondylitis, but the symptoms can be controlled and managed over a period of time by medication and therapy.
Thankfully, most patients suffering from this disease do not require surgery.
Joint replacement surgery can be done to ease the pain in extremely severe cases. In cases of badly bent spine, corrective surgery can be a viable option.
- Regular Exercising: Staying active is one of the best preventive measures to tackle this disease. Sometime as simple as walking and stretching can be helpful.
- Physical therapy: Good posture, stretching tight muscles and exercise practices must be maintained to lower the pain and stay agile.
- Natural Therapies: Like acupuncture, acupressure, myofascial release (a scientifically practiced massage therapy), hydrotherapies, wax therapy can provide temporary pain relief and ease tight muscles
- Medications: Non-steroidal and anti-inflammatory drugs like indomethacin can be used but these come with potentially serious side effects posing a greater danger to your health.
- Homeopathy: Scientific research shows promising results from >>>
- Home remedies: A set of home remedies can be done in an effort to ease the pain. Heat can be applied on the inflamed joints to reduce the swelling.
- Unhealthy practices like smoking, drinking, eating overly sugary food or processed food should be avoided
You can try to prevent the damage to your joints to some extent by maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
- Getting plenty of Calcium and vitamin D into your body helps to strengthen the bones.
- Using adaptive devices will also help you in putting less strain on your joints and back.
- Regular checkups with the doctor is key to diagnose the disease at the early stages.