Ankylosing spondylitis, also known as Bechterew’s Disease, is a form of arthritis affecting the bones and joints at the base of the spine where it connects to the pelvis. This form of spinal arthritis, will cause the joints to become swollen and inflamed throughout the back. Over time, the affected spinal bones will converge, causing further pain to the individual. Ankylosing spondylitis is considered to be an autoimmune disease.
The cause of ankylosing spondylitis is still not exactly known, although some research suggests that genes seem to play a role in the development of this condition. There is currently no cure for this condition, but there are ways to treat and relieve its symptoms. The disease most often initiates between the ages of 15 and 40, but can initiate in old age in rare circumstances. It is three times more common in males than females. With females typically experiencing less severe symptoms than males.
Signs and symptoms vary on an individual basis, but most commonly include:
• Pain in the buttocks
• Back pain and back stiffness – Improves with exercise, gets worse during rest, early morning symptoms are worse and improve during the day, late into the night the patient is more likely to wake up with back pain than earlier on after falling asleep
• Arthritis – Inflammation of the joints. When the joint is moved it hurts, when the doctor or anybody examines the joint there is pain, the joint is swollen, and the affected area is warm
• Enthesitis – Inflammation and pain where the tendons/ligaments meet the bone. Symptoms of pain may be felt behind the heel, under the heel, at the end of the ribs, and at the top of the shin bone. Pain in the ribs can make breathing difficult
Ankylosing spondylitis treatments may involve the use of medications or site specific injections to reduce inflammation and/or suppress immunity to stop progression of the disease, physical therapy, and exercise. Medications decrease inflammation in the spine and other joints and organs. Physical therapy and exercise may help improve posture, spine mobility, and lung capacity. Any treatment of ankylosing spondylitis will depend on the patient’s case.
A full ankylosing spondylitis prognosis will vary from person to person. Some people will have only mild episodes of back pain that come and go, while others will have chronic severe back pain. In almost all cases, the condition is characterized by acute, painful episodes and remissions, or periods of time where the pain lessens.