Ankylosing spondylitis is a protracted inflammatory condition that can affect various joints of the body including the eyes and intestines, but most frequently, it targets the spine. Doctors classify it as a variety of spinal arthritis to clearly distinguish it from common back injuries. It is also potentially much more harmful than common back problems because it may eventually impede the patient’s mobility and damage their eyesight. Genetic factors influence which individuals develop this disease. Studies link it with the HLA-B27 gene. Ankylosing spondylitis usually first appears in the teenage years, with males three times more likely to develop it than females.
First Noticed After a Muscle Strain
Ankylosing spondylitis and regular back injuries may start in the same way. The patient tells the doctor that they strained a muscle, and shortly afterward, the back pains started. However, the pains associated with ankylosing spondylitis come from an inflammation of the spine rather than trauma, and therefore the treatment required differs. Another indicator that this is not standard back pain comes from the fact that back stiffness in the morning continues for more than half an hour.
Pain that Develops over Time and Varies
The pains that ankylosing spondylitis causes may occur in any part of the body where tendons connect to a bone. This inflammatory pain often develops slowly over a period of years, although at times it can flare up suddenly. The symptoms may lessen or worsen as time passes. Sometimes these pains come on after a period of rest, or they may wake the patient up at night. In the mildest cases, it is barely noticeable, but in the most severe incidents, the pain makes it extremely painful to bend, turn around or perform other movements regularly made with little thought. Teenagers don’t normally experience pain in their lower backs, so when it occurs, an immediate medical referral is crucial.
Exercise May Help
Exercise generally aggravates back pains while rest eases them, but with ankylosing spondylitis, the opposite holds true. This is one reason why these pains are frequently worse in the morning. Because exercise brings relief, anyone with this illness should try and lead as active a life as possible.
Pains that Spread Around the Body
Even though the symptoms of ankylosing spondylitis usually first appear where the spine joins the pelvis, this arthritis-like inflammation easily spreads to affect joints in the shoulder, elbow, ankle, knees, heel and other areas. Damaged joints feel extremely tender and are painful when moved. The patient may also notice swellings in these areas, sometimes accompanied by a warm feeling. The exact course the disease takes and its severity follow so many different patterns that there is no way to know in advance where and how it will develop.
Slowly Developing Chest Pains
Sometimes ankylosing spondylitis causes chest pains to develop. This happens when the inflamed spine starts to affect the joints located between the breastbone and the ribs. In this scenario, ribs may start to feel very sensitive, and the patient’s breathing may become impaired. A normal cough or sneeze can become quite painful. After a gentle stroll, the patient may suddenly find that they are out of breath. Since people often associate chest pains with heart issues, they are likely to visit their doctor in these circumstances. Whatever the source of the pain, it should be diagnosed as soon as possible.
Feeling absolutely exhausted is another characteristic symptom of ankylosing spondylitis before the patient receives any medical treatment. Since many other types of illness also cause a similar lack of energy, this feeling by itself does not help a great deal to make an accurate diagnosis.
An Inflamed Eye
When an eye becomes bloodshot and painful, immediate consultation with an eye doctor is essential. In many cases, the cause may be an easily treatable infection, but the inflammation may also be due to ankylosing spondylitis. Discomfort seeing bright lights and blurred vision are additional signs the patient may experience.
Ankylosing spondylitis may also damage the bowels, with patients experiencing prolonged periods of diarrhea or seeing blood in their stools. Bouts of inflammatory bowel disease or colitis should be reported as soon as possible to the doctor, as they usually can be treated with medicine.
Uncomfortable Sitting Down
Pains in the buttocks are relatively common with ankylosing spondylitis since the tenderness at the lower end of the pelvis makes it painful to sit down. Although this situation is very unpleasant, at least it provides an easily identifiable symptom. It helps to get an accurate diagnosis as soon as possible, so doctors know the care requirements, and the chances of successful treatment improve.
Painful Finger or Toe
Painful toe or fingers that aren’t a result of an obvious injury or an ingrown toenail may be a symptom of ankylosing spondylitis. Although pain and swelling in these areas don’t occur in every case of the disease, it happens often enough for doctors to recognize it as a symptom.