Ankylosing Spondylitis is a fairly common and pervasive form of arthritis. Studies indicate that it affects between two and three million Americans. To put this figure into perspective, such a number means that as many as one in one hundred people have the disease.
Ankylosing spondylitis has a much higher rate of incidence in men than in women, with men developing AS up to three times more often than women. The disease can occur at any age although unlike many forms of arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis is more likely to affect people under the age of forty. The disease usually appears in people between the ages of fifteen and thirty and onset after the age of forty, while not impossible, would be uncommon.
The warning signs of ankylosing spondylitis are:
– Chronic back pain
– Back pain which occurs during the night
– Lasting back pain in the mornings or after periods of rest
– Pain and tenderness in the heels, shins, thighs, hips, shoulder blades and ribs
– Recurring inflammation in the eyes, also known as iritis
– Blurred vision and sensitivity to bright light
Although the aforementioned are all symptoms of ankylosing spondylitis, the primary symptom that most sufferers seek treatment for is chronic lower back pain. The pain that most sufferers describe is one that takes as long as two or three hours to overcome. Mostly the pain is dull and diffused through the lower back or base of the spine and even into one or both sides of the buttock region. In selected cases the pain may even appear to originate in the hips or knees, which can be confusing when trying to diagnose the disease as such symptoms tend to indicate other forms of arthritis such as osteoarthritis.
The pain and discomfort that accompanies ankylosing spondylitis is due to inflammation in the joints of the sufferer. Put simply, when inflammation is present there is discomfort in the area. Prior to seeking a formal diagnosis and professional medial advice, people with ankylosing spondylitis will sometimes manipulate their body position to reduce discomfort. By doing so the disease can be exacerbated and stiffness and bad posture can result. Although there are twenty four vertebrae in the human spine, a reduction of any two or more individual vertebrae can reduce range and movement of the body significantly.
The secret to dealing with ankylosing spondylitis lies in the early diagnosis of the disease, which relies on knowing the early warning signs and seeking appropriate medical advice as early as possible.