Ankylosing spondylitis is a potentially debilitating condition, mainly characterized by inflammation of the spinal and pelvic joints as well as some other joints throughout the body. It is a form of spondyloarthritis, with evidence pointing to a genetic connection. In its most advanced and rarest phase, ankylosing spondylitis can cause joint capsules and ligaments to fuse with the bone. Eventually the bones themselves can fuse due to bony overgrowth, a process called ankylosis.
Potential causes of ankylosing spondylitis
While the exact cause of ankylosing spondylitis is unknown, there are strong indications that it is influenced by heredity. A very high percentage of patients with ankylosing spondylitis bear a particular genetic marker. However, it is not necessary to carry that marker and most people who do carry it do not develop ankylosing spondylitis. Additionally, the ratio of people with the genetic marker to those who have the disease varies greatly among different ethnicities.
There is some indication that other factors, such as an infection, may couple with yet another gene to trigger the disease in people who are already susceptible to it. One theory holds that bacteria may enter the sacroiliac joint through the bloodstream in the intestines when intestinal defenses are lowered.
Symptoms and treatment of ankylosing spondylitis
Stiffness and pain in the sacroiliac joints, where the base of the spine joins the pelvis, are telltale symptoms among patients with ankylosing spondylitis. Back pain and tenderness may last several months and then disappear, only to reemerge later. Flare-ups may be very severe or non-existent. In mild to moderate cases, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are normally effective in reducing pain and swelling. Other medications such as Methotrexate or Sulfasalazine, known as disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs, or DMARDs, are believed to be even more effective.
Ankylosing spondylitis is a chronic condition with no known cure. Available treatments are aimed at managing the symptoms of pain relief, physical therapy and regular visits to a rheumatologist can help to mitigate the pain, monitor the progress of the disease and lower the chances of further complications and ankylosis. In severe cases, surgery may be necessary to correct deformities, such as severe spine curvatures and there is always a chance of recurring ankylosis.
Laser Spine Institute does not provide minimally invasive spine surgery to treat ankylosing spondylitis. However, our team can help you find conservative treatments to help relieve your chronic back pain. Contact us today to learn more.