Understanding Ankylosing Spondylitis
Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) is an inflammatory disease which mainly affects the spine and can cause the bones of the spine (vertebrae) to fuse. This makes the spine less flexible and may result in a hunched posture. If the ribs are affected, difficulty with deep breathing may result. AS may also affect other areas of the body including the eye. The cause of AS is unknown. Research shows some people with HLA-B27 (a protein in the blood) are at increased risk of developing the disease.
Symptoms of Ankylosing Spondylitis
Symptoms of ankylosing spondylitis (AS) include frequent pain and stiffness in the lower back and hips. Pain may worsen during periods of inactivity which may be relieved by moving or exercise. Pain may be worse in the middle of the night or after prolonged sitting. Symptoms vary person to person and may be mild and intermittent or may be chronic resulting in severe pain. When AS affects other areas of the body additional symptoms may develop including pain and stiffness in affected areas (ribs, shoulders, knees, feet), vision changes and eye pain, fatigue, loss of appetite, weight loss, skin rashes, abdominal pain and loose bowel movements.
Diagnosing Ankylosing Spondylitis
Diagnosing ankylosing spondylitis (AS) includes a thorough physical exam and individual as well as family history, x-rays and blood tests.
Treating Ankylosing Spondylitis
Initial therapy may include over the counter anti-inflammatory medications, injections of steroids into the affected joints, and biologic medications including FDA-approved drugs commonly prescribed to reduce signs and symptoms of AS such as infliximab (e.g., Inflectra®, Remicade®) and golimumab (Simponi Aria®), administered into the blood stream intravenously. Also FDA-approved, golimumab (Simponi®) is administered under the skin subcutaneously. Other biologics including Janus kinase (JAK) inhibitors may also be prescribed if the disease is not responsive to other treatments.
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