Ankylosing spondylitis or ankylosing spondylitis: symptoms

A chronic inflammation of the joints between the sacrum and the iliac bones (sacroiliac joints), and of the joints between the vertebrae. The disease is five times more common in men than in women and especially in young men. What are the causes and symptoms of ankylosing spondylitis? How can the disease be treated and what is the prognosis? What should you take into account if you are pregnant or want to become pregnant? Can you just work if you have Ankylosing Spondylitis?

Article content

  • Ankylosing spondylitis/ankylosing spondylitis
  • Causes of ankylosing spondylitis
  • Symptoms of ankylosing spondylitis
  • Complications of ankylosing spondylitis
  • Diagnosing ankylosing spondylitis
  • Treatment of ankylosing spondylitis
  • Work and ankylosing spondylitis
  • Pregnancy and ankylosing spondylitis
  • Prognosis of ankylosing spondylitis

Ankylosing spondylitis/ankylosing spondylitis

A chronic progressive inflammation of joints and stiffness , usually in the spine and pelvis. It may happen that new bone tissue is created between the vertebrae and they then fuse with each other. The disease is much more common in men than in women and especially in men who are young. Ankylosing spondylitis usually starts between fifteen and thirty-five years of age. Ankylosing spondylitis sometimes occurs more often within a family. There is a variant that is sometimes preceded by psoriasis (skin disease) or by an intestinal disease (for example Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis). The name of the disease comes from VM Bechterew, a Russian neurologist who lived from 1857 to 1927.

Causes of ankylosing spondylitis

It is unknown what causes ankylosing spondylitis, but HLA-B27 can be detected in the blood of most people with the disease. This is an antigen that can be inherited, it is a substance that can cause an immune response. This would explain the greater prevalence of the disease in certain families. Various elements play a role in ankylosing spondylitis.

Symptoms of ankylosing spondylitis

The symptoms usually appear when a person is a young adult. This can happen in a few months, but it can also take years.

  • Pain in the lower back;
  • The pain may radiate to the buttocks or thighs;
  • The pain can also occur higher in the back (chest, neck);
  • Morning stiffness and a stiff feeling after sitting still for a long time, the stiff feeling usually decreases when a person is moving;
  • A feeling of tiredness;
  • After the back, other joints can also become inflamed, such as the shoulder, knees, hips;
  • At a later stage, eyes, heart and possibly other organs can also become inflamed
  • If the inflammatory symptoms are present in the sternum, this can lead to stiffening of the chest: shortness of breath;
  • Loss of body weight;
  • Slight increase in body temperature;
  • The pain will decrease after using an NSAID.

Complications of ankylosing spondylitis

If the disease is not treated, the spine can grow crooked (kyphosis, lordosis). Someone then walks bent over. If the joints between the spine and ribs become affected, a person can no longer expand the chest as well. Inflammation and damage can also occur in areas other than the joints, such as the eyes (uveitis).

Diagnosing ankylosing spondylitis

A GP can suspect the disease by the symptoms that occur. A physical examination will be done and an x-ray may be taken. The photo shows whether there are any deformities. Further blood tests to see how serious the inflammation is and the HLA-B27 antigen is examined. The diagnosis is often confirmed with a CT scan (of the sacroiliac joints).

Treatment of ankylosing spondylitis

  • The condition cannot be cured, treatment is aimed at relieving the symptoms and preventing deformities of the spine.
  • For ankylosing spondylitis, a doctor can prescribe simple painkillers or anti-inflammatory painkillers (NSAIDs). Which one you receive depends on the complaints. Biologicals can also be prescribed (biological rheumatism inhibitors).
  • Physiotherapy can help through breathing exercises, exercises to improve posture, and strengthening the back muscles. It is also important that spinal deformities are prevented. See if there is a Bechterew practice group nearby.
  • Light regular exercise can relieve pain and reduce stiffness, such as swimming.
  • If a joint, such as the hip, is affected, surgical intervention may be necessary.
  • If someone becomes less and less mobile, occupational therapy may be necessary and special aids can be used.

Work and ankylosing spondylitis

It is good to pay attention to a number of things:

  • Alternate heavy and light work;
  • Indicate your limits clearly;
  • Take short breaks more often and adjust the work pace;
  • Prevent the workload from becoming too high;
  • Contact the company doctor if you are unable to work.

Pregnancy and ankylosing spondylitis

If you wish to become pregnant, it is important to discuss the use of medication with your doctor in advance. Ankylosing spondylitis does not affect fertility. Back complaints generally do not change much during pregnancy. If the back, hips and pelvis are badly affected, it is advisable to be guided by a gynecologist during pregnancy. Ankylosing spondylitis causes you to have a less mobile chest, making it more difficult to breathe through your chest. The less space left in the abdomen during pregnancy, the more difficult it becomes to breathe through the abdomen. Breathing can cause problems during pregnancy. You can pay extra attention to this when you do pregnancy exercises. Ask an exercise or physiotherapist which exercises are suitable.

Prognosis of ankylosing spondylitis

The condition is incurable, but most people with ankylosing spondylitis are only mildly affected. The disease often does not cause many problems in daily life. Even in people who have the disease in a severe form, the symptoms often diminish over the course of their lives. Eventually, ten to twenty percent of people with ankylosing spondylitis have major limitations in movement.