Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS) is a condition typically affecting the spine, causing the joints of the neck, back and pelvis to become inflamed. This causes pain and stiffness, most notably in the sacroiliac joints (the joints that connect the base of your spine to your pelvis).

The hips and shoulders can also be affected, as can other parts of the body, including the eyes, skin, bowel and lungs. AS usually develops in people between the ages of 15 and 45 years.

When it comes to the treatment of Ankylosing Spondylitis, Brisbane patients can turn to the expert team at arthritisCARE, who have years of experience in treating this condition and many others. Read on for more information about AS.

Understanding the symptoms of AS

The symptoms vary from person to person, however, the most common include:

  • pain and stiffness in areas such as the back, buttocks or neck
  • greater intensity of symptoms after sleep which are often relieved with exercise
  • pain in tendons (which join muscle to bone) and ligaments (which connect bones to bones) can occur in the chest, heel or underneath the foot.
ankylosing spondylitis treatment

Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) is a condition typically affecting the spine, causing the joints of the neck, back and pelvis to become inflamed.

What causes this condition?

The cause of AS is unknown, however having a history of AS in your family increases the likelihood of you developing the condition. The HLA-B27 gene is associated with AS with nearly nine out of ten people that have AS testing positive for it. But it is important to note that this same gene is seen very commonly in healthy people. So, just having the gene does not mean that you will go on to develop AS.

Recently, two new genes known as IL23R and ARTS1 have been found to be associated with AS as well.

What happens if I am diagnosed with AS?

With the new treatments available, most people with AS can lead active lives. There may be times when the symptoms worsen, but in most cases, AS can be well controlled, and the pain will improve over time.

Some people may experience severe, long-lasting pain due to inflammation in the spine causing new bone to grow around the joints. If this is the case, permanent stiffness may occur in the back or neck. In severe cases, the extra bone can fuse the spine together, preventing it from moving, causing a bent or forward stooped posture. However, with the treatments now available from Rheumatologists, these severe symptoms can be avoided if treatment is commenced as early as possible.

When it comes to Ankylosing Spondylitis treatment, Brisbane patients have options

The early stages of AS appear as common back pain and, as a result, are often left unattended, with people thinking it is not worth medical attention. It is vital however, that you are diagnosed as early as possible to make use of the many effective treatments available.

AS is diagnosed from symptoms, a physical examination and blood tests. An x-ray of your spine may also be required, but early in the disease, MRI scans are used to pick up the disease even before it can be seen on x-rays. If a person has had the condition for many years, their x-rays will show little areas of calcification forming in the spine and that’s the thing Rheumatologists try to avoid with early diagnosis and treatment.

If your doctor suspects a diagnosis of AS, you should be referred to a Rheumatologist.

ankylosing spondylitis brisbane

AS is diagnosed from symptoms, a physical examination and blood tests. An x-ray of your spine may also be required, but early in the disease, MRI scans are used to pick up the disease even before it can be seen on x-rays.

Is there a cure for AS?

There is no cure currently; however, treatment has improved dramatically, and a range of new medicines are extremely helpful when it comes to controlling the condition. You should be very wary of any products or therapies that say they will be able to cure AS.

What treatments are there for AS?

The expert team at arthritisCARE will tailor your treatment based on your symptoms and the severity of your condition. When it comes to Ankylosing Spondylitis medications, Brisbane patients have a range of treatment options available to them.

Each treatment has its own benefits, as well as its own risks. If necessary, you may need to try several different treatments to ensure you find the one that is right for you.

The treatment options for AS can include:

  • physiotherapy exercises (such as hydrotherapy or exercises in water), to keep the spine flexible and improve posture
  • medications including:
    • analgesics (pain relievers, such as paracetamol)
    • non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
    • corticosteroid medicines or injections
    • disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) or biologics which both act by altering the underlying disease rather than treating symptoms.

What can I do?

  • See a Rheumatologist: A Rheumatologist can diagnose AS and make sure you commence the right treatment as early as possible in the course of your disease. If you have AS and have not seen a Rheumatologist, ask your doctor about a referral.
  • Learn more about AS: Always talk to your doctor about available treatments as your active role in therapy will make a significant difference.

Ways to manage pain include:

  • Adopting a healthy lifestyle: Ensuring a healthy diet, avoiding smoking and actively working to reduce stress will help improve your overall health and wellbeing.
  • Keeping active: Regular sports and physical activity help to improve general fitness and wellbeing. Even a little bit of active movement or yoga each day can make a significant difference to the way you feel.
  • Seeking support: As mentioned, there is no cure for AS. In addition to talking with your Rheumatologist, contact your local Arthritis Australia team for advice on the range of supports available to help you to develop skills to actively manage your pain or discomfort.

If you suffer from AS, the arthritisCARE team can help

The pain and discomfort caused by AS can impact negatively on your quality of life. Our team understands this better than most, as we treat patients with this, or similar conditions every day.

The arthritisCARE team has many years of experience and offers you a choice of both male and female Rheumatologists in Brisbane. Our goal is to ensure that you feel comfortable working with us so we can collaboratively treat your condition and significantly improve the way you feel each day.

Avoid unnecessary pain and discomfort, by speaking to our team to set up an appointment and assessment.

Recommended further advice is available from:

Arthritis Australia's Ankylosing Spondylitis Resources page

Arthritis Australia's Printable Information Sheet about Ankylosing Spondylitis

"Ankylosing Spondylitis: How to diagnose and treat it" - Video and blog post by Dr. Peter Landsberg (Rheumatologist at arthritisCARE in Brisbane)

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