Ankylosing spondylitis is a form of arthritis that involves inflammation of the joints. It is a type of chronic inflammatory, autoimmune disease that mainly affectsthe axial skeleton which involves mostly the spine and sacroiliac joint in the pelvis. Ankylosing spondylitis can affect the entire body as well, that is, it is a systemic disease. Due to inflammation, pain develops in the affected area as well as the spine becomes stiff and mobility is decreased.
This disease can occur at any age. If not treated or controlled early, the chronic inflammatory conditions may develop which can result in fusion of the vertebral bodies and this is known as ankylosis. As said, it is a systemic disease and hence it can affect organs such as lungs, heart, kidneys and eyes as well.
Joints other than the spinal ones may also be affected. Ankylosis spondylitis is more common in men as compared to women. People who are at the risk of developing this disease may be the ones who have HLA-B27 gene. This gene only develops the tendency whereas certain environmental factors are necessary to trigger the onset of this disease.
Spondylitis can occur at any age. This is in contrast to spondylosis which is age-related and is a degenerative condition rather than an inflammatory one. Following are given some of the spondylitis symptoms.
The ligaments surrounding the joints of lower back become inflamed at their points of attachment to the vertebral column. Inflammation occurs in the sacroiliac joint, the surrounding ligaments and the small facet joints of the spine.
Pain is the major symptom. It is quite obvious that where there is inflammation, there occurs pain. Pain may be in the lower back, in the entire spine or may also be referred to one of the buttocks or the back of thigh.
Pain is greatest in the morning and eases with motility, heat or a warm shower. Over the course of time, pain becomes chronic and may spread in the whole spine a well as may enter the neck. Spreading of pain up to ribs and shoulder blades is also possible in chronic stages.
In the chronic conditions of ankylosing spondylitis, bony fusions between the inflamed vertebral bodies may also appear. Some bone making cells may form bony material within the surrounding inflamed ligaments which can then result in the formation of bony bridges between the vertebral bodies, hence fusing them.
Due to ankylosis, pain, inflammation and stiffness occurs in spine and there is a loss of mobility and flexibility of the vertebral bodies.
Inflammation causes pain, stiffness as well as fatigue.
The bridges of bones formed between the vertebral bodies are brittle and are vulnerable to fracture upon trauma.
Disturbed Curvatures of Spine
Our spinal cord possesses normal curvatures such as an anterior convexity of lumbar and cervical region (lumbar and cervical vertebrae are bent inwards) whereas the thoracic vertebrae are curved outwards (anterior concavity). Chronic conditions of ankylosing spondylitis can cause the curvature of the thoracic region to curve further outwards and the person develops a bent forward position.