Spondylitis is an alternate name for a category of painful and debilitating diseases otherwise known as spondyloarthritis or spondyloarthropathy. While these are distinct conditions and each has its own pathology, a number of common tendencies appear in all of them, namely arthritis of the spine, sacroiliac and other joints, and a condition called enthesitis (joint inflammation that can lead to the fusing of ligaments to bone). This latter symptom can also be a sign of an advanced case of bone fusion (especially in the spine), called ankylosis. Spondylitis that includes ankylosis as one of its symptoms is known as ankylosing spondylitis, one of the distinct forms of spondyloarthritis.
Symptoms and complications
Many other complications can arise from ankylosing spondylitis, apart from ankylosis. Spondylitis in all its forms is known for the following symptoms and tendencies:
- Arthritic pain in the spine, sacroiliac joint (the union of the hip bones and the spine), and other joints
- No signs that any form of rheumatoid arthritis is active
- Multiple family members are afflicted
Ankylosing spondylitis, though, can also include these symptoms:
- Enthesitis, which can lead to a continual cycle of healing and scarring, eventually promoting abnormal bone growth
- Ankylosis, or the fusion of bones and ligaments in the spine (and possibly other joints)
- Decreased rib-cage flexibility due to chronic inflammation and/or ankylosis of the rib/spine or rib/sternum joints
- Iritis or anterior uveitis (eye inflammation)
- Similar symptoms in shoulders and hips (about one third of cases)
- Kyphosis, or a forward-curving deformity of the spine
There is, unfortunately, no cure for any form of spondylitis. It is a life-long condition and is likely hereditary in nature. Nonetheless, patients may manage their pain effectively using non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen. Medication, physical therapy, exercise and surgery are viable options for mitigating other symptoms – even ankylosis. Spondylitis may be painful and burdensome, but an otherwise healthy and productive life is still attainable.