Warning signs of ankylosing spondylitis

Back pain has always been a medical complaint by many individuals. Almost all adults will seek medical attention for back pain at some point in their lives. There are various causes of low back pain. In most cases, the cause can be mechanical which simply means that it was due to trauma from a sudden strain on the spine. On the other hand, it is also important to be aware that back pain can also indicate ankylosing spondylitis.

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What is ankylosing spondylitis?

Unlike with average back pain experienced by many individuals, ankylosing spondylitis is not due to physical injury to the spine. Instead, it is a long-lasting condition caused by the inflammation in the vertebrae.

Even though the intermittent flare-up of pain and stiffness are the usual symptoms, the condition can also affect other joints as well as the intestines and the eyes. When the condition is in an advanced stage, abnormal bone growth in the vertebrae can cause the fusion of the joints which drastically reduces mobility. The individual can also suffer from visual problems or joint inflammation.

Who are at risk for ankylosing spondylitis?

Ankylosing spondylitis is likely to affect young men but can also develop in females. The primary symptoms typically manifest in late adolescence to early adulthood. Take note that the condition can develop at any age though.

The likelihood to develop the disease might be inherited, but not all will develop the disease. It is still unclear why some individuals develop ankylosing spondylitis while others do not.

Warning signs

Unexplained pain in the lower back

The stiffness and pain tends to worsen upon waking. The symptoms of ankylosing spondylitis can actually feel better after exercise.  Adolescents and young adults who complain of pain or stiffness in the lower back or hips should be evaluated for ankylosing spondylitis. The pain is often situated in the sacroiliac joints. To recognize and manage the symptoms of ankylosing spondylitis including back pain, register for first aid training today.

Ankylosing spondylitis

The stiffness and pain tends to worsen upon waking.

Family history of ankylosing spondylitis

When diagnosing the condition, the history of the individual is gathered and physical examination is performed. Imaging tests such as CT scan, X-ray and MRI are also carried out. Some individuals with certain genetic markers are prone to ankylosing spondylitis but not all develop the disease. If a family member has the condition, the individual might have inherited genes that put him/her at risk for ankylosing spondylitis.

Unexplained pain in the joints, heel or chest

Instead of back pain, some experience pain in the heel, joints or chest. In some cases, the rib bones are involved at the point where they meet the spine. This causes chest tightness that makes breathing difficulty. A doctor must be consulted if any of these occur or persist.

Progression of symptoms

Since ankylosing spondylitis is a progressive disease, the symptoms can come and go but do not completely stop. The pain and inflammation often spread from the lower back up to the spine.

Relief by NSAIDs

Initially, symptomatic relief can be provided by over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications. NSAIDs such as naproxen or ibuprofen will not change the course of the condition though.

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