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Ankylosing Spondylitis

Also known as “bamboo spine,” ankylosing spondyliltis is an autoimmune order – a condition in which the body’s defenses attack its own tissues. The result is chronic inflammation – mainly in the spine – and the vertebrae gradually fuse. Treatment can usually permit you to live a relatively normal life.

Symptoms for Ankylosing Spondylitis

The condition normally develops when someone is in their 20s or 30s, though in about 5 percent of cases it develops in childhood. More men are affected than women. It usually affects the low back first. The first signs are back pain and stiffness that is often worse in the morning. The symptoms can spread to the upper buttocks, neck and the rest of the spine. Often additional symptoms such as general tiredness, night sweats, and swelling in other joints follow. In some cases, inflammation also affects the soles of the feet and the Achilles tendon at the back of the calf. Rarely, the eyes, the skin, the heart, and the kidneys can be affected.

These initial symptoms tend to come and go, in varying degrees of severity. But over the years bouts of disease activity can slowly lead to the vertebrae in the affected areas becoming fused.

If not treated, fusion of the vertebrae can severely restrict mobility and lead to a characteristic stooping posture as the thoracic spine curves forward. This distortion of the spine may affect breathing and may scar the lungs.

The spine also becomes brittle and more likely to fracture, especially in the lower part of the neck – even after a seemingly innocuous fall. Any neck pain or change of head position after such as event should be treated as a medical emergency if you have been diagnosed with this condition.

What Causes Ankylosing Spondylitis?

This is an inherited condition that affects about one in a hundred people. It’s thought that factors than genes may also contribute, because while 7 percent of the population carry the genes involved, the condition only develops in a small proportion.

Neither the causes nor the process by which the condition that develops and causes inflammation and spinal fusion are yet fully understood. Continuing research may provide new insights into the causes and treatment of this condition in the future.


Unfortunately, there are no preventive measures that can guard against the onset of ankylosing spondylitis. If you know the condition runs in your family, be alert for the symptoms and if you suspect you’re affected, get a diagnosis as early as possible to improve your chances of avoiding structural damage to the spine.

Figuring Out What’s Wrong

The complex and intermittent pattern of the emergence of symptoms in the early stages of the condition can delay diagnosis. But over time a good physician will recognise the range of symptoms and confirm the diagnosis by means of X-rays, blood tests to identify genetic markers, and possibly magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

Fixing Ankylosing Spondylitis

Medications that affect immune system activity are available. Injection of cortisone may also be helpful.

Alongside medication, the mainstay of treatment is physical therapy.

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