A is for Ankylosing Spondylitis

November 11, 2012

Even though Ankylosing Spondylitis mainly affects the spine, pain in the heel can be common.

Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) is a chronic inflammatory condition that primarily affects the joints of the spine. It belongs to a group of conditions known as spondyloarthropathies, which involve inflammation of the joints and ligaments in the spine and other areas of the body.

Key features and characteristics of ankylosing spondylitis include:

  1. Inflammation: AS is characterized by inflammation, primarily in the sacroiliac joints, where the spine connects to the pelvis. Over time, the inflammation can spread to other areas of the spine, leading to pain and stiffness.
  2. Fusion of the spine: Inflammation in the spine can cause new bone formation, leading to the fusion of vertebrae. This fusion can result in reduced flexibility and limited range of motion in the spine, affecting posture and mobility.
  3. Back pain and stiffness: One of the hallmark symptoms of AS is chronic lower back pain and stiffness. The pain is typically worse in the morning or after periods of rest and improves with movement and exercise. The pain can also occur in other areas such as the neck, hips, and shoulders.
  4. Enthesitis: Enthesitis refers to inflammation at the sites where tendons and ligaments attach to the bones. In AS, enthesitis commonly affects the areas around the heels, causing heel pain and swelling. It can also occur in other joints, such as the knees or hips.
  5. Extra-articular manifestations: Ankylosing spondylitis can involve various extra-articular manifestations, affecting organs and tissues outside the joints. These may include inflammation of the eyes (uveitis or iritis), inflammatory bowel disease (such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis), skin conditions (such as psoriasis), and fatigue.

The exact cause of ankylosing spondylitis is unknown, but it is believed to involve a combination of genetic and environmental factors. The HLA-B27 gene is strongly associated with AS, although not all individuals with the gene develop the condition.

While there is no cure for ankylosing spondylitis, there are treatments available to manage symptoms and slow down disease progression. Treatment approaches typically involve a combination of medication, physical therapy, exercise, and lifestyle modifications. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are often prescribed to relieve pain and reduce inflammation. In severe cases, biologic medications that target specific components of the immune system may be recommended.

Early diagnosis and appropriate management of ankylosing spondylitis are crucial for minimizing symptoms, preserving mobility, and preventing complications. If you suspect you may have ankylosing spondylitis or are experiencing persistent back pain or other symptoms, it is recommended to consult with a healthcare professional, such as a rheumatologist, for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment.


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