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A Simple Understanding of the Basics of Ankylosing Spondylitis

Ankylosing spondylitis is an inflammatory arthritic condition affecting the spine and large joints.

By Audra SpanglerPublished 7 months ago 4 min read
A Simple Understanding of the Basics of Ankylosing Spondylitis
Photo by Joyce Hankins on Unsplash

This rheumatic condition is best treated by a rheumatologist.

Diagnosis of this condition can be very challenging and requires “ruling out” many other conditions. The HLA-B27 genetic marker shows that you have a higher chance of a handful of rheumatic conditions but is by no means a test for ankylosing spondylitis. No such test exists.

There is no cure for ankylosing spondylitis, however, some patients are able to achieve remission with medication and diet.

Inflammatory issues are the first stages, in advanced cases, the cartilage can calcify and fuse joints. Typically the pelvic region and the spine are affected by this fusion first.

In some areas, this disease is actually called “bamboo spine”.

Gut issues are also very common and some research shows that it could even be the underlying cause of the inflammatory response.

Chronic pain, stiffness, and exhaustion are prevalent among AS patients.

For some, this condition can be disabling, even with the newest medications.

There have been limited, though increasing, case studies and research projects on AS. There are some very interesting reads available.

Many researchers and doctors still disagree with the best ways to approach diagnosing and treating this disease.

Doctors, scientists, and the like are not all-knowing. For example the Shmorl’s node. To quote Google; “Schmorl’s nodes are a common spinal disc herniation in which the soft tissue of the intervertebral disc bulges out into the adjacent vertebrae through an endplate defect. Schmorl’s nodes are commonly seen in the upper lumbar spine and are often discovered incidentally in imaging studies.” They originally thought these only happened post-mortem, as before the advancement of medical imaging they were not visible until an autopsy was done. Most people are also asymptomatic.

If you’re interested in more details on what these “nodes” are, check out this site. They do seem prevalent among the AS community.

Another example, in the eighties they thought this disease only afflicted men. They now say it is more common in men, but even this is under dispute because women are misdiagnosed so very often.

Due to the lack of easily accessible information resources and difficulty in accessing medical professionals AS suffers often use forums or online groups to speak to other AS warriors to share information and to help boost morale.

A few social movements such as “Stand Tall” have helped awareness. And a few celebrities have assisted the cause.

New treatment options are continuing to come in, I won’t go into this subject other than to say; that no medication, treatment, or diet works for everyone.

If you suffer from this debilitating condition and are failing with treatments, keep trying and natural anti-inflammatories are your friend! Even if you cannot tell, they are helping prevent irreversible damage.

In closing, a few words for those who have been diagnosed with or suspect they may have AS from another AS warrior;

Finding the right treatments, medications, diets, or combos of such, is key. However, understanding some of the more advanced parts of your condition can really help you in finding a rhythm that supports you. I highly recommend joining some online communities and read, read, read. There is a ton of misinformation and things can feel overwhelming. As you progress on this journey you will start to understand the mechanics of your flares and your remission. Don't lose hope!

In a large flare, it can feel as though you will never walk again and some may even need a wheelchair. It is important to remember that these things can and will change. Keeping your spirits up should never be overlooked!

It is also important to know that, some studies show, untreated chronic pain can lead to brain damage. Don’t try to just get through the pain and keep pushing, this is how permanent damage can occur.

Your life is not over! This is just a detour and learning opportunity. Stand Tall friends!

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor or any type of medical professional. This is all written from the perspective of someone with Ankylosing Spondylitis, who has done a lot of reading and research on why, or how, a body could be in so much pain and not be actively dying.

Questions and comments are always welcome!


About the Creator

Audra Spangler

Writer, snowboarder, gamer, adventurer. AS warrior and Spoonie.

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  • Alex H Mittelman 7 months ago

    Great work! Fantastic 🩵

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