Spondylitis, or specifically ankylosing spondylitis (AS), occurs due to vertebrae or spinal bones’ inflammation. Although there is no particular cause for this type of arthritis, genes play a role in this condition. People having the HLA-B27 gene are at a greater risk of developing ankylosing spondylitis. Spondylitis is most common in men and can occur twice in men than women. This type of arthritis can be painful as the ligaments and joints of the spine get inflamed, which can ultimately lead to the spine’s calcification.
Although there is no definite cure for this condition, physiotherapy and medication can alleviate the symptoms. Here are the effects of ankylosing spondylitis on the body:
The skeletal system: Ankylosing spondylitis mainly affects the lower area of the spine, usually after long sitting periods. Along with stiffness and pain in the range, the other affected areas can be the neck, knees, shoulders, hips, ankles, the upper area of the spine, and sometimes even the chest.
MRI scans, X-rays are essential diagnostic tools since they highlight the areas of inflammation.
Since there is no specific treatment for this condition, the patient is relieved by reducing the inflammation. A straight posture, even when sleeping, is the key to reducing the pain. Along with medications, low-impact exercises, swimming, and other water exercises are often beneficial to people with ankylosing spondylitis.
Affected areas: Here are the affected areas of the skeletal system:
- Stiff spine: the lower area of the range is primarily affected by stiffness and pain. A stooped posture can be a result of this.
- Neck pain: the neck can be stiff, and it might be challenging to move the neck in general directions.
- Chest tightness: due to inflammation or fusing of the bones, there might be chest tightness.
- Stooped shoulders: due to the neck region’s pain and inflammation, the shoulders can appear to be stooped.
- Knee movement: AS also affects the knees, causing difficulty in training and bending of the knee. An X-ray is often helpful in detecting inflammation in the knees.
- Foot movement: since the ankles and feet become stiff and painful due to AS, the feet’ general movement can get affected.
- Tight hips: AS can cause the hips to become tight and inflexible. Swimming and other water exercises can help in relieving the pain.
- The nervous system:
Since the lower spine area is the primarily affected region of the body, it can lead to scar formation in the nerve bundles present at the base of the spine. Due to this damage, several activities involving nervous control like bowel control, incontinence, etc. AS also affects the eye and can cause inflammation and redness in the eye. The diagnosis of this condition can be iritis, which causes vision problems and intensifies during bright light. Early treatment is essential to prevent permanent damage to the eye.
Affected areas: Here are the affected areas of the nervous system:
- Impaired vision: When there is a pain in one or both eyes, or there is a loss of vision, you need to contact your doctor. By getting immediate medical help, the permanent loss of vision can be avoided.
- Bladder dysfunction: AS can cause bladder dysfunction, which can lead to a lack of bladder control.
- Bowel dysfunction: bowel dysfunction can be caused by AS, as it renders the nervous system damaged. People with AS might lack control of the bladder.
- Sexual dysfunction: since AS causes the nerves at the spines’ base to become scarred, it can lead to sexual dysfunction.
- The integumentary system:
Some rare cases of AS have been observed where the affected people develop psoriasis. In this autoimmune condition, red and scaly patches of skin are produced in the body. These patches can occur anywhere in the body but are commonly found in elbows, scalps, and knees. In some cases, blisters and lesions are observed on the skin. Psoriasis symptoms can include a stinging sensation in the skin, itching, burning, or tenderness. Some topical medicines can reduce the discomfort caused by this condition.
- The circulatory system:
A deficiency of red blood cells can lead to the development of general fatigue and, in some cases, anemia. In some rare cases, AS can cause inflammation in the heart and aorta area. This can cause aorta enlargement.
AS also increases the risk of cardiovascular disease. This can lead to the increased chance of suffering from stroke, heart attack, or angina pectoris. If you have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or diabetes, you should regularly visit your doctor to decrease the risk of suffering from cardiovascular risks. By avoiding tobacco products and having a well-balanced meal, you can reduce the risks to a great extent.
- The respiratory system:
In some rare cases, AS can affect the respiratory system. Due to the fusing or inflammation in the spine and ribs joints, there can be an insufficient movement of the chest wall. This can lead to difficulty in taking breaths. In some cases, fibrosis and scarring of the tip of the lung have been observed. This condition can cause difficulty in breathing and fighting off cough and cold. In a chest X-ray, the damage caused to the lungs can be observed.
People who have AS should avoid smoking as it can deteriorate the condition.
Apart from causing problems in the skeletal, respiratory, circulatory, and nervous systems, AS can also affect an individual’s general health. People who suffer from AS get fatigued very quickly. This can be because AS causes the body to develop chronic inflammation, and while fighting them, it gets fatigued. Sleep disruption due to pain is also a contributing factor to fatigue. To lead a healthy life, you need to eat a nutritious meal and quit tobacco products and smoking. Beneficial exercises like swimming and other activities that your physician might recommend can effectively combat this disease.
Although AS is a chronic disease, people can lead an active life with proper breathing and stretching exercises. Since there is no appropriate treatment of AS, the long-term treatment of this disease involves effective symptom management.