A RARE ARTHRITIS OF THE SPINE
Ankylosing spondylitis is the most common spondyloarthropathy. The term “ankylosing spondylitis” means, literally, “inflamed spine that fuses together.” It is a “seronegative” spondyloarthropathy, meaning that the rheumatoid factor (RF) is not present in the blood of patients with the disorder.
Ankylosing spondylitis affects primarily the spine and sacroiliac joints. The sacroiliac joints are the two joints located at the articulation of the sacrum and the ilium. The ilium is the largest bone of the pelvis. People with ankylosing spondylitis often complain of prolonged morning stiffness in the low back and neck.
Ankylosing spondylitis can also cause inflammation of the tendons, eyes and lungs. Severe cases can lead to fusion of the spine and marked immobility. Ankylosing spondylitis strikes mostly teen-aged males and young adult men. Women who are affected usually have a milder form of the disease. About 1 in 350,000 Americans has ankylosing spondylitis. Early diagnosis is important to avoid joint damage, deformity and disability. But diagnosis is often delayed because the symptoms of ankylosing spondylitis mirror that of common back problems. Laboratory tests can aid an accurate diagnosis.
Markers for the disease include an elevated sedimentation rate and elevated C-reactive protein, both of which indicate inflammation, as well as a positive HLA-B27 test. Arthritic changes may also be seen on x-rays and in bone scans. Treatment for ankylosing spondylitis consists of anti-inflammatory medications or TNF blockers, aerobic exercise and physical therapy. Rehabilitation focuses on proper posture, exercises to strengthen the back and abdomen, breathing exercises to enhance lung capacity, and other exercises to maintain range of motion. Ongoing physical therapy is critical to avoiding a stiff or “ankylosed” spine, which can severely limit mobility and cause permanent disability.
Scott Zashin, MD, PA is a respected Texas ankylosing spondylitis Doctor/Specialist in Dallas. The above information about ankylosing spondylitis is from his arthritis book: Arthritis Without Pain, a comprehensive guide for patients considering or undergoing treatment with the TNF blockers Enbrel®, Remicade®, or Humira®. All rights reserved.