Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) is a type of arthritis, which primarily affects the spine or back. AS causes inflammation of the joints and ligaments that normally permit the spine to move, which makes the spine stiff. The bones of the spine may get fused leading to rigid and inflexible spine. Apart from the spine and the sacroiliac joints, other joints that can be affected by AS include shoulders, ribs, hips, knees and feet.
Prognosis of AS
Most people with ankylosing spondylitis can lead normal and productive life. Although, it is a chronic type of disease, most affected people are not severely disabled and they do relatively well. Studies suggest that after an initial period of inflammation, the symptoms subside in most cases and about 70–90% of those affected remain fully independent or have minimal disability.
The rate of progression of the disease varies widely between different individuals. People with ankylosing spondylitis have periods of remission interspersed with flare-up of symptoms (i.e. alternating periods where symptoms improve and worsen). It is, however, not possible to predict the course of the disease in a person.
Treatment with pain relievers and newer medications (biological therapy) can control the symptoms sufficiently for most people to lead a normal and productive life. If you practice good posturing and do exercises daily, you can control many of the effects of the disease. Regrettably, some people may develop permanent posture and movement problems despite appropriate treatment. If a person develops spinal fusion in flexion, it can be significantly disabling. Spinal deformities usually arise about 10 years after the start of disease.
Response to treatment of every person with ankylosing spondylitis is different. What works for another person may not work for you. It is important to be patient and participate in your care. There is no cure for AS at present, but you can control your symptoms by following your recommended treatment and your doctor’s advice.
Ankylosing spondylitis is not a fatal condition and the risk of death due to the condition is increased only in people, who have had severe disease for at least 20 years.
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