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Ankylosing Spondylitis
Written By : Dr. James Pendergraft 
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Ankylosing Spondylitis is a condition that mostly hits men between the age of 20 and 40 years. Also known as Rheumatoid Spondylitis or Marie-Strumpell Disease, AS is an autoimmune disease which affects one of every 250 men. The severity of the condition may vary. In the worst case a person may lose complete independence.

The word "Ankylosing" implies inflammation while "Spondylitis" implies a joint that is solid and fixed and has no ability to bend. Thus, if described in simple terms, the condition Ankylosing Spondylitis involves the inflammation of the spine due to which it becomes solid and fixed. What generally happens here is that the tendons and ligaments swell and when there is a reduction in the swelling, there is some bone growth as a replacement. This may repeat several times as a result of which the joint completely fuses and the bone replaces all the tendons and ligaments that used to be present at the joint. One interesting fact about this condition is that the symptoms appear and disappear over time.

Causes: Though medical science has discovered no exact cause for Ankylosing Spondilitis, It has been suggested that it is caused by the HLA-B27 antigen which is genetic. This gives an explanation as to why this condition is found to run through the generations of a family. AS is also said to have connections with another condition known as Reites Syndrome.

Symptoms: The very first symptom of AS is muscle spasms and pain in the lower back. The pain, in most cases, spreads to the neck, upper back and even the buttocks. It generally occurs in the night and early in the morning and gets slowly relieved during the day due to exercise. If the condition is left untreated, it is likely to cause symptoms like fatigue, appetite loss and even fever. In some cases, it can also lead to weight loss.

In severe conditions, the spine cones might completely fuse as a result of which it become very painful and difficult to move around. In some cases, it has been found that the person suffering from this condition finds it hard to breathe because the ribs lose the ability to move and the person is depending purely on the diaphragm muscles to conduct the process of breathing. Ankylosing Spondilitis is also known to affect the lungs. In some cases, it also causes inflammation of the eyes.

Treatment: There are no medicines that can cure the condition completely. However, there are drugs to reduce the severity of the symptoms and these are the NSAIDs or Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs. These are found to be effective in reducing pain and controlling the inflammation.

Exercising can be of great help. Swimming and other exercises that involve stretching can cause better body postures and improve spine movement. Physiotherapy and hydrotherapy are also known to cause relief to the symptoms. In some very rare cases, hip replacements are required. It is known that in a number of cases, the symptoms might be there for sometime and then they suddenly start reducing to a great extent.

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