Ankylosing Spondylitis. Yowzers! That is a mouthful. This often-painful condition is no laughing matter for the approximate 2.7 million people affected by AS. If you suspect that your back pain may be Ankylosing Spondylitis, keep reading for a symptoms list, and helpful suggestions in taking the next step on the road to a possible diagnosis. There is currently no cure for AS, but rest assured that symptoms and pain can be managed with the proper medication and therapies under the care of a physician.
What is Ankylosing Spondylitis?
AS is a form of arthritis. It primarily affects the spine, although other joints can be affected. In advanced cases, the inflammation can lead to new bone formation in the spine (Ankylosis), causing sections of the spine to be fused and an immobile position, usually at the base of the spine.
Ankylosing Spondylitis can also cause inflammation, pain, and stiffness in other areas of the body such as hips, ribs, heels, and the small joints in the hands and feet. Occasionally eyes can be involved, in rare cases, the lungs and heart.
Steps to Diagnosis:
Any chronic back pain that you are experiencing should be brought to your Primary Care Physician’s attention. A Rheumatologist is the most common type of physician that you would see for a possible diagnosis. Rheumatologists are specifically trained in diagnosing disorders of the musculoskeletal system, soft tissues, and more.
Some tests the Rheumatologist may conduct are blood tests, X-rays, and see if you have a family history of AS. Ankylosing Spondylitis affects everyone differently. Even the age at onset of symptoms can vary from person to person, although most cases are diagnosed between the ages of 17-45 and is not discriminated by sex.
Once you have taken the steps in getting your chronic back pain diagnosed, you are halfway there! Whether you have been diagnosed with AS, or another condition, you are now a part of a community that is ever evolving to find better treatments, and cures.
If you have been diagnosed with Ankylosing Spondylitis, below are some links for support websites:
- https://monsterpainintheas.tumblr.com/ – Sponsored by Novartis. There is a quick back pain quiz if you have not been diagnosed, in addition to how to manage this condition. Dan Reynolds with Imagine Dragons is a partner of this website and shares his story.
- https://www.spondylitis.org/Ankylosing-Spondylitis – Under the Community Section, you can find a support group in your area.
If you have been diagnosed with AS, clinical studies may be able to help. Participants are often seen by physicians and medical staff at no cost, have access to potential new AS medications, and receive compensation for time and travel. Click here to learn more.