Ankylosing spondylitis is a long term condition.
It’s characterised by painful inflammation of the joints (particularly in the lower spine) which can cause severe stiffness and at times crippling pain.
While it has traditionally been seen as more prevalent in men, recent studies show that it likely effects males and females equally.
Typically symptoms start to show from the age of 20 onwards.
Ankylosing spondylitis is:
- An autoimmune disorder
- A form of rheumatoid arthritis
- It causes inflammation to joints in the spine
Symptoms Typically Include:
- Acute pain in the sacroiliac joints (behind the buttocks)
- Severe stiffness in the lower back (particularly in the morning)
- Many sufferers also experience neck, hip and rib pain
How often these symptoms appear depend on the progression of the disease as well as the treatment and/or lifestyle of the individual patient.
Pain to the sacroiliac joints comes in what are termed ‘flares’.
These are periods of acute pain and can arrive (seemingly with no obvious cause) 10 – 12 times a year.
Each flare can last up to 2 weeks and patients may need to take anti-inflammatory medication just to operate in the day to day.
As the disease progresses patients may find themselves in near constant pain without treatment.
So what causes ankylosing spondylitis and how does it start?
Let’s start with the basics.
The words that make up ankylosing spondylitis mean:
Ankylosing = Bones or joints stiffened or ‘fused’ by disease
Spondylitis = Inflammation to the bones in your spine
For most people ankylosing spondylitis specifically effects the sacroiliac joints (or SI joints for short).
The SI joints are located to both the left and right side of your lower back, right at the top of your pelvis. They link the iliac bone to the sacrum.
When these joints are inflamed, or if bones are fused together, it can cause severe pain to the patient.
This pain will feel like it’s coming from behind the buttocks.
It can range from a near constant, jagged, spasm like pain, rendering the patient completely immobile, to dull aches which can effect mood and severely impair sleep.
The disease that causes this chronic condition is a form of rheumatoid arthritis
The word arthritis means “joint inflammation”.
It comes from the Greek words arthro-, meaning joint and -itis, meaning inflammation.
Often when people think of arthritis they think of osteoarthritis.
This is a different, mechanical form of arthritis more typically caused by wear and tear damage to the joints.
Think of a machine whose parts have been overused or damaged over time causing joints to swell.
Ankylosing spondylitis is a form of rheumatoid arthritis.
The word rheumatoid is derived from the Latin word ‘rheumaticus’ and the Greek word rheum. It means “troubled with flow”.
It came about because of the way rheumatoid arthritis appears to spread within a patient’s body.
Ankylosing spondylitis is an autoimmune disorder
Ankylosing spondylitis is an autoimmune disorder and less common form of rheumatoid arthritis that causes chronic inflammation to joints in the spine.
Autoimmune disorders are where the body’s immune system repeatedly attacks itself.
These attacks cause inflammation, chronic pain and in some cases bone fusing.
This bone fusing can create further mobility issues and pain and it becomes a vicious cycle.
If you’re reading this and feeling panicked please don’t worry,
Ankylosing spondylitis doesn’t have to be a prison sentence.
You can thrive with AS.
In fact knowing you have it and taking steps to manage it can be profoundly life changing.
The goal of this website is to help you manage and feel better than ever before with your AS.