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3 Things You Need To Know About Ankylosing Spondylitis

There are many causes of lower back pain, including ankylosing spondylitis. Ankylosing spondylitis is an inflammatory disease that affects both your spine and your sacroiliac joint, the joint where your spine connects to your pelvis. Here are three things you need to know about ankylosing spondylitis.

What are the signs of ankylosing spondylitis?

The main symptom of ankylosing spondylitis is pain in your lower back. This pain tends to be worse while you're at rest, especially at night or in the early morning. When you get out of bed in the morning, you'll also notice that your back is stiff. Poor posture is another sign of this condition.

You may also experience symptoms outside of your back pain. You may experience arthritis in your large joints, like your knees. You may also experience additional inflammatory conditions. For example, you may suffer from anterior uveitis, which is an eye condition characterized by swelling of the iris, or inflammatory bowel disease, which causes severe digestive upset.

Why does it occur?

The cause of ankylosing spondylitis still isn't known, but genetic and environmental factors are thought to play a role. A gene known as HLA-B27, which helps to control inflammation, is strongly associated with this condition, which suggests that it has a genetic cause. Other genes have also been associated with this condition, and not everyone with this gene develops ankylosing spondylitis, so environmental factors are also thought to be involved.

Environmental factors like bacteria exposure may trigger the disease in people who have the right genes. Studies in rats have shown that when raised in a germ-free environment, rats don't develop the condition, but when they're introduced to a regular environment, they develop symptoms.

How is it treated?

Your doctor will recommend using non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to manage your pain and inflammation. These drugs work for as many as 80% of patients, according to NIH.

If these drugs don't work for you, newer drugs like infliximab may be used. Infliximab needs to be given intravenously, so you'll need to see your doctor every six to eight weeks to receive your medication. This drug usually works quickly, though it's not a cure. When the drug is discontinued, symptoms return, so make sure to keep seeing your doctor, even if your back isn't hurting anymore.

Your doctor may also recommend seeing a physiotherapist. A physiotherapist can teach you exercises to stretch your back and increase your range of motion. This can be helpful if you've developed poor posture due to your condition.

If your lower back hurts, you may have ankylosing spondylitis and should see a doctor at your local health clinic right away.