When it comes to ankylosing spondylitis, it is described as a chronic inflammatory condition that affects the joints in between the vertebrae of the spine. Take note that this condition has no known cure even today. The signs and symptoms typically start with minor back pain but can lead to eventual fusion of the spinal bones that result to immobilization. The nerve damage, physical deformities and inflammation caused by ankylosing spondylitis can cause the development of several complications.
The back pain that is linked with ankylosing spondylitis can be debilitating, thus causing various issues with daily functioning. Once the condition progresses, fusion of the spinal bones can occur which results to stiffness that is often referred to as “bamboo spine” or immobility. Take note that this can make it hard for the individual to move around or even stand in place. Once fusion of the joints occurs, there is no treatment to restore normal mobility of the individual.
The inflammation caused by ankylosing spondylitis is not limited to the spine but can affect other parts of the body. In case the inflammation spreads up from the spine to the ribs, the individual might end up with breathing difficulties.
In case the inflammation is severe, the ribs might also fuse together, resulting to lung immobility as well as a reduction in the amount of air the individual can breathe in and out.
In some circumstances, scarring or fibrosis can also develop on the lungs which causes labored breathing. If there is no previous lung condition such as emphysema or asthma, labored breathing might be minor without any debilitating effects.
In rare cases, the inflammation of ankylosing spondylitis can reach the heart, usually affecting an area around the aortic valve at the base of the heart. After some time, this can result to blockage of the heart, leakage of the valves or both. Once this occurs, surgery is required to fix the damage or clean up any blockage.
Uveitis involves inflammation in the vascular layer of the eye called the uvea. This condition occurs in some individuals with ankylosing spondylitis. The individual might experience blurry vision, light sensitivity and rapid onset of pain in the eyes. Take note that uveitis can eventually progress to irreversible vision loss, thus it is vital to seek immediate medical care once this condition is suspected.
Cauda equine syndrome
In the later or advanced phases of spondylitis, neurological issues can manifest due to the constriction of the spinal column and disfigurement of the nerve bundles at the base of the spine. This condition is called as cauda equine syndrome and considered as a surgical emergency.
The symptoms of this condition include loss of bowel movement, incontinence, loss of urinary retention, sexual dysfunction and pain or weakness in the legs. If not treated properly, it can lead to permanent paralysis.