My Life with Ankylosing Spondylitis
I have been diagnosed with Ankylosing Spondylitis, it's a horrible thing to suffer with, it can really knock me down.
I've been trying to raise awareness on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Not many people seem to know about it, as it is not really visible.
I can tell you that suffering with Ankylosing Spondylitis has an impact on my mental health.
I suffer with anxiety and depression, and keep beating myself up about my physical limits.
For more on my health, check out the posts on philengland.com/health-blogs
So What is Ankylosing Spondylitis?
Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS) is a long-term condition in which the spine and other areas of the body become inflamed.
AS tends to first develop in teenagers and young adults. It's also around 2 times more common in men than in women.
The symptoms of AS can vary, but usually involve:
* back pain and stiffness
* pain and swelling in other parts of the body – caused by inflammation of the joints (arthritis) and inflammation where a tendon joins a bone (enthesitis)
* extreme tiredness (fatigue)
These symptoms tend to develop gradually, usually over several months or years, and may come and go over time.
In some people the condition gets better with time, but for others it can get slowly worse.
You should see your GP if you have persistent symptoms of AS.
If your GP thinks you may have the condition, they should refer you to a specialist in conditions affecting muscles and joints (rheumatologist) for further tests and any necessary treatment.
Further tests may include blood tests and imaging tests.
It's not known what causes the condition, but there's thought to be a link with a particular gene known as HLA-B27.
There's no cure for AS and it's not possible to reverse the damage caused by the condition. Treatment, however, is available to relieve the symptoms and help prevent or delay its progression.
In most cases treatment involves a combination of:
exercises carried out individually or in groups to reduce pain and stiffness
physiotherapy – where physical methods, such as massage and manipulation, are used to improve comfort and spinal flexibility
medicine to help relieve pain and reduce inflammation– such as painkillers, anti-tumour necrosis factor (TNF) medication and other forms of biological therapy
Surgery is sometimes needed to repair significantly damaged joints or correct severe bends in the spine, but this is uncommon.
Complications of ankylosing spondylitis
The outlook for AS is highly variable. For some people the condition improves after an initial period of inflammation, whereas for others it can get progressively worse over time.
Some people with AS are able to remain fully independent or minimally disabled in the long-term.
However, some people eventually become severely disabled as a result of the bones in their spine fusing in a fixed position and damage to other joints, such as the hips or knees.
With modern treatments, AS does not normally affect life expectancy significantly, although the condition is associated with an increased risk of other potentially life-threatening problems.
For example, AS can lead to:
* weakening of the bones (osteoporosis)
* spinal fractures
* cardiovascular disease – a group of conditions affecting the heart and blood vessels
* chest infections
* kidney disease (rare)
I have also been diagnosed with Osteoarthritis
Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease because the condition worsens over time.
It can be a very painful condition that limits your functioning and impacts your mobility.
Osteoarthritis is a chronic condition that requires ongoing medical care. Because of the severity of some cases, joint replacement surgery is sometimes necessary and you may even have to be hospitalized because of your condition.
Because your weight-bearing joints are affected, you may not be able to stand or sit for long periods without having to reposition. If your back, hips, or knees are involved, you may not be able to lift, bend, or squat repeatedly.