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Ankylosing Spondylitis

What Are The Symptoms Of Ankylosing Spondylitis?

Friday, March 16, 2012 - 14:44

Contributing Author: Guy Slowik FRCS

Early symptoms of ankylosing spondylitis usually begin in early adulthood. They begin gradually and include:

  • Gradual onset of back pain before the age of 35
  • The pain usually begins low and slowly progresses up the spine
  • Early morning stiffness and pain that subsides with movement and heat
  • Pain relieved by movement and not by rest
  • Symptoms last more than three months
  • Fatigue
  • Weight loss, in the early stages

Does Ankylosing Spondylitis Affect Only The Back?

Ankylosing spondylitis is a disease that can cause inflammation of muscles and joints and other tissues throughout the body.

  • About 25% of people with ankylosing spondylitis develop pain in other joints.
  • Men frequently have pain in the hips, shoulders, and feet.
  • Women are sometimes affected in the knees, wrists, and ankles.
  • Sometimes the disease begins as pain radiating from the buttocks to the back of the leg.
  • The heel can be affected at the bottom of the foot as plantar fasciitis or along the back as Achilles tendinitis or where it inserts into the heel (enthesitis).
  • Ankylosing spondylitis sometimes affects the eyes, causing redness, pain, and sensitivity to bright light. This inflammation affects the colored part of the eye (the iris) and the surrounding membrane (the uvea). Inflammation of the eye must be treated immediately to prevent scarring, cataract formation, and bleeding.
  • Ankylosing spondylitis sometimes causes a long-term mild inflammation of the base of the aorta (the main artery of the heart) and the adjacent heart muscle. Although this condition is usually mild, if it goes undetected it can interfere with the electrical impulses that control the action of the muscle. It may also cause the aortic valve to leak.
  • Ankylosing spondylitis can affect the rib joints and make it difficult to inflate the lungs completely. After some time, this condition may decrease the capacity of the lungs. Some people develop scarring (fibrosis) at the top of the lungs.

Will I Become Disabled?

In its severe forms, ankylosing spondylitis can cause complete fusion of the spine (ankylosis). This fusion can cause a forward curvature of the upper torso (kyphosis) and can keep the ribs from expanding, which can make breathing difficult.

However, many people experience a mild form of the disease and are able to live a completely normal life. Others have to make some modifications to their lifestyle and work. Most people with ankylosing spondylitis are able to work full time.

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