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Ankylosing Spondylitis - Overview

Ankylosing spondylitis is a chronic inflammatory arthritis. This form of spondyloarthritis predominantly affects joints in the spine and the sacroilium in the pelvis. Chronic inflammation of the affected areas causes pain. If the process of inflammation affects the spine, the pain is accompanied by stiffness. Due to progression of the disease the vertebrae eventually fuse together. This is a cause of total loss of mobility of the spine.

Apart from affecting the previously mentioned joints ankylosing spondylitis is also considered a systemic disease and it may affect other tissues in the body. Namely, it may attack the eyes, heart, lungs and kidneys.

Treatment for Ankylosing Spondylitis

The goal of the treatment form ankylosing spondylitis is to alleviate the pain of the affected areas and to reduce the stiffness of the spinal column ligaments, muscles and tendons. In some people the very progress of the disease can be treated with new biological medications such as TNF-a inhibitors. Apart from medications the treatment for this chronic inflammatory illness includes physical exercises, development of good posture and certain techniques which may relax the muscles and reduce the pain. The treatment is planned by a well experienced rheumatologist or arthritis specialist.

The attacks of pain can be prevented by physical conditioning and strengthening exercises. These are also necessary for maintaining mobility. Good posture is further maintained with the assistance of several assistive devices (a crane, walker etc). If the pain persists it is basically alleviated with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications.

The goal of long-term treatments is to relieve the pain, preserve the function and mobility and prevent potential deformities. In case that exercises do not provide with desirable results a therapist make changes and customizes the exercise program. Continuing with new exercises is essential and promotes strength and adequate posture. The pain may be rather unbearable and if it cannot be alleviated with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications patients suffering from ankylosing spondylitis may be prescribed corticosteroids, disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs), biologic agents etc. Corticosteroids are excellent when it comes to inflammation and disease modifying antirheumatic drugs are successful in alleviation of pain. Biologic agents are good for both, pain and inflammation.

Certain number of patients may benefit from alternative therapies such as yoga and acupuncture. Complications can be treated with halo braces with a well-fitted jacket. And only in severe cases patients require corrective surgical procedures. Surgery is indicated in patients whose joints have been severely damaged. The most frequent surgical procedure in patients suffering from ankylosing spondylitis is hip replacement surgery.

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