Certain factors which help the body defend against pathogens protect the body from destruction, and rebuilding damaged and aged tissues are vital to the body. The immune system sometimes attacks certain parts of the body, rather than protecting them. When the immune system attacks a part or system of the body, it is called an autoimmune disease.
Ankylosing spondylitis is one of those autoimmune conditions which cause stiffening of the spinal column. The vertebrae of the spine fuse into one fused bone. Ankylosing spondylitis is sometimes called bamboo spine disease, because the vertebral column looks like a bamboo shoot. This condition is more common in men than women. It is classified as an arthritic disease; spondylitis is a term that refers to spinal troubles, and ankylosing refers to fusing of the bones.
Symptoms of ankylosing spondylitis
The effects of ankylosing spondylitis causes discomfort and limited movement in the neck, back and hips. The eyes can also be affected with a high degree of sensitivity to light. You may feel severe pain when you are exposed to light. The onset of this condition can occur during the twenties and thirties. However, ankylosing spondylitis can occur in childhood. If the condition appears in childhood, it is called juvenile ankylosing spondylitis. Some researchers strongly contend there is a genetic factor as an underlying cause that triggers the condition.
The pain and discomfort associated with ankylosing spondylitis occurs during rest and during the activities of daily living. It becomes increasingly difficult to do the daily chores you might normally do. The pain can continue even after taking medication for pain and inflammation. If your pain continues without letting up after seeing your doctor, you should make your doctor aware that your current treatment plan isn’t working.
Tests and treatment options for ankylosing spondylitis
Your doctor will order X-ray imaging and blood tests. The X-rays will reveal fused or narrowed and deformed bone patterns of the spinal column, if ankylosing spondylitis is present. Your doctor may also order a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or a computed tomography (CT) scan to get a clear picture of the situation in the bones, joints and spine. Other types of tests, including the C-reactive protein test and ESR rate will show if there is any active inflammation in the body.
The medical community has established a scoring system called Bath Ankylosing Spondylitis Disease Activity Index (BASDAI). This scoring system goes from 0 to 10. A 0 base level indicates no symptoms, while the maximum level of 10 indicates the most severe pain.
The things that are assessed by the BASDAI scale are:
Level of fatigue
Pain in the back
Tenderness in the spinal column
Stiffness upon resting
Severity of stiffness upon waking from a rest
The general perception of medical practitioners is that a score of four is considered to be an active form of ankylosing spondylitis. The BASDAI scoring helps the doctor to develop a treatment plan.
There is no specific cure for ankylosing spondylitis; pain is managed with medications that reduce inflammation and swelling. It is important to live a healthy lifestyle by eating a nutritious diet and by engaging in a prescribed exercise regimen. Your doctor may refer you to a physical therapist for awhile to teach you the exercises you need to do. Your doctor will want to monitor you over a long period of time to see how your treatment plan is working.
Applications of heat and cold, massage and exercise are the specific treatments to help increase joint mobility of the neck, spine and hips. Research continues to look for surgical procedures and injectable drugs which will promote pain relief and improved mobility. If there is a family history of ankylosing spondylitis, care should be taken to include proper exercises for the health of your vertebrae. It is also important, if there is a family history of ankylosing spondylitis, to have members of your family screened for the early detection and prevention of ankylosing spondylitis.