Ankylosing Spondylitis

Ankylosing spondylitis is a type of inflammatory arthritis primarily affecting the spine. As it progresses, spinal vertebrae may fuse, rendering that part of the spine inflexible. Should the fusion impact the rib cage, it can affect lung function. However, the inflammation can spread to other parts of the body, including the eyes.

There is no cure for ankylosing spondylitis, but prompt treatment can ease symptoms and may slow the disease’s progression. With proper management, many ankylosing spondylitis patients can lead a normal life. To discuss diagnosis and treatment options, it is important to contact a Tampa Bay spinal cord doctor as soon as possible.

Causes                                                                                                 

Genetics plays a role in ankylosing spondylitis. People with a gene known as HLA-B27 are at increased risk of developing the condition, but not all those with this gene will come down with ankylosing spondylitis. Those not carrying the gene may develop the disease. Scientists believe environmental factors may play a role in the disease.

Potential Symptoms

Unlike other forms of arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis often affects young adults, with males at higher risk of the disease than females. White males are at much higher risk than men of other races. Inflammation may lead to curvature of the spine. Symptoms include:

  • Lower back pain and stiffness
  • Neck pain
  • Lethargy

Pain is usually most severe in the morning or during the latter half of the sleep cycle. Symptoms may wax and wane over time. In some patients, symptoms disappear for long periods, only to return.

Possible Complications

Unlike many other spinal issues, ankylosing spondylitis can cause complications in various organs. Since ankylosing spondylitis can affect the eyes, contact an ophthalmologist immediately if experiencing red eyes, blurred vision, or light sensitivity. Other complications include:

  • Bone fractures – ankylosing spondylitis causes bones to thin, increasing the risk of fracture. In a worst-case scenario, broken vertebrae penetrate the spinal cord or affect related nerves in the spine.
  • Cardiac issues – the aorta, the body’s largest artery, may become inflamed via ankylosing spondylitis. Should the aorta enlarge sufficiently from inflammation, it may impair the heart’s aortic valve.

Because ankylosing spondylitis affect so many different parts of the body, patients will likely see various specialists in the course of disease treatment. These can best be explained using a back pain doctor in Tampa Bay.

Diagnosing the Problem

A physical exam allows the doctor to test a patient’s range of motion. Diagnostic tests include:

  • X-rays
  • Magnetic resonance imaging
  • Gene test for HLA-B27

Blood tests may indicate inflammation, but various health issues contribute to inflammation, so such testing is not definitive.

Treatment Options

In the early stages of ankylosing spondylitis, Tampa Bay doctors may recommend patients take non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) such as naproxen or ibuprofen for pain relief. If NSAIDs do not control the pain, the doctor may prescribe an FDA-approved medication for ankylosing spondylitis. These include tumor necrosis blockers or interleukin 17 inhibitors. The former target cells causing inflammation, while the latter helps the body fight infection and inflammation.

The doctor in Tampa Bay will also recommend physical therapy, with exercises determined for each patient. Hydrotherapy, or water exercise, is often helpful for ankylosing spondylitis patients. In some cases, surgery is necessary. This is usually only done in cases of severe joint damage. For example, a badly damaged hip may require replacement.

Benefit of a Doctor

If you experience symptoms of ankylosing spondylitis or any other spinal problem, contact a Tampa Bay spinal cord doctor make an appointment for an examination.