Ankylosing Spondylitis Treatment in Asheville, NC
Considered a form of inflammatory arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis (AS), also called Bechterew's disease, causes inflammation of the spinal joints (vertebrae), which can lead to severe, chronic pain and discomfort. As it progresses, ankylosing spondylitis causes ankylosis (new bone formation in the spine). This leads to some of the vertebrae in your spine fusing, resulting in the spine becoming less flexible, causing a hunched-forward posture.
The hallmark feature of ankylosing spondylitis is the involvement of the sacroiliac (SI) joints—located at the base of the spine where the spine joints the pelvis—though other joints may become involved. A serious condition presenting potential health complications—for instance, if the ribs become involved, it may become difficult to breathe—ankylosing spondylitis warrants medical intervention. While there is no cure, treatment can lessen your symptoms and slow the progression of the disease.
To schedule a consultation with a qualified healthcare provider in Asheville that specializes in ankylosing spondylitis treatment, call (423) 482-8711 or contact Dr. Dalal Akoury online.
Ankylosing Spondylitis Symptoms
Early signs that could indicate ankylosing spondylitis include pain and stiffness in your lower back and hips, especially in the morning and after periods of inactivity. Neck pain and fatigue are also common. As time progresses, ankylosing spondylitis symptoms may worsen, improve or stop at irregular intervals, and common areas affected include:
- Your sacroiliac joints (the joints at the base of your spine and pelvis)
- Vertebrae in your lower back
- The place at which your tendons and ligaments attach to your bones (enthuses), including your spine primarily but also along the back of your heel
- Cartilage between your breastbone and ribs
- Your hip and shoulder joints
Additionally, you may experience inflammation in other parts of the body, most commonly in the eyes, which in addition to spinal inflammation could suggest an ankylosing spondylitis diagnosis.
Ankylosing Spondylitis Causes & Complications
There is no specific cause of ankylosing spondylitis, though genetics are believed to play a role, with a gene called HLA-B27 greatly suggesting the possibility of ankylosing spondylitis development. Other risk factors include your sex (men more frequently develop ankylosing spondylitis than women) and your age (the onset of ankylosing spondylitis typically occurs in late adolescence and early adulthood).
In addition to your spine potentially becoming stiff and inflexible, fusion can stiffen your rib cage and ultimately restrict your lung capacity and function. Additional complications of ankylosing spondylitis might include:
- Eye inflammation (uveitis): a common symptom associated with AS, uveitis may cause rapid-onset eye pain, sensitivity to light and blurred vision and should be addressed immediately if experienced.
- Compression fractures: in the early stages of AS, your bones may weaken, causing vertebrae to crumble and increased severity of your hunched-forward posture. Vertebral fractures, in turn, can put increased pressure on the spinal cord and potentially lead to injury of the spinal cords and associated nerves.
- Heart complications: AS can lead to an inflamed aorta, and it may become enlarged to the point that distorts the shape of the aortic valve of the heart, impairing heart function.
Ankylosing Spondylitis Diagnosis
A physical exam will precede diagnostic tests to confirm an ankylosing spondylitis diagnosis. Ankylosing spondylitis tests vary. Your healthcare provider will test the range of motion of your spine by asking you to bend in different directions. He or she might attempt to recreate pain by pressing on specific portions of your pelvis or by moving your legs into a particular position, or might test your ability to breathe by asking you to take deep breaths to view if you have difficulty expanding your chest. Diagnostic tests for ankylosing spondylitis could include:
- Imaging tests such as X-rays (to examine changes in your joints and bones) or MRIs to reveal evidence of ankylosing spondylitis in its early stages
- Lab tests, such as certain blood tests to inspect for signs of inflammation or to detect if you have the HLA-B27 gene, a potential indicator of ankylosing spondylitis
Ankylosing Spondylitis Treatment
Ankylosing spondylitis treatment aims to relieve your pain and stiffness while preventing or delaying complications and spine deformity. Treatment will be most successful if the condition is caught early on, hence signaling the importance of reporting any of your symptoms immediately to your healthcare provider. Treatment options may include:
- Medications such as Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to help relieve inflammation, pain and stiffness. Your healthcare provider may recommend a biologic medication such as a tumor necrosis factor (TNF) blocker or an interleukin 17 (IL-17) inhibitor to target cell proteins involved in your body’s inflammation or defend your body against infection, respectively.
- Physical therapy to achieve pain relief as well as improved strength and flexibility. Range-of-motion and stretching exercises can help maintain flexibility in your joints and preserve good posture.
- For severe pain and joint damage, your healthcare provider might suggest surgery to improve the condition of your hip joint or replace it if necessary.
Though incurable, treatment for ankylosing spondylitis can help improve your symptoms and slow the progression of the disease. Catching the disease in its early stages is particularly important to optimize treatment outlook. Schedule a consultation with a qualified healthcare provider in Asheville that specializes in ankylosing spondylitis treatment. Call (423) 482-8711 or contact Dr. Dalal Akoury online.
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