Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) is a chronic inflammatory condition. Patients’ symptoms usually progress gradually over time, and may be erratic because the type and severity of the symptoms can improve, worsen or completely stop for periods of time.
Following are some of the common symptoms that a patient with AS may experience.
The main symptom of AS is sacroiliitis or the inflammation of the sacroiliac joints (where the spine joins the pelvis). This can result in pain and stiffness in the lower back, hips, and buttocks, especially in the morning or after long periods of inactivity.
Patients with AS often experience symptoms of arthritis, which causes inflammation at the joints. This commonly occurs at the hip and knee joints and can result in swelling, pain, tenderness, and warmth at the affected sites.
Enthesitis is an inflammation at the point where the tendons or ligaments connect to the bone (called entheses). This causes pain at the site it occurs. For example, if it occurs at the point where the chest bone meets the ribs, it can manifest as chest pain; if this occurs at the heel, it can make it painful to stand on hard surfaces.
Advanced AS can cause ankylosis to occur. Ankylosis involves the fusion of bones, such as vertebrae, due to new bone formation. In the spine, for example, this can result in sections becoming rigid, therefore reducing flexibility.
Eye inflammation (or uveitis) may occur in patients with AS, which can lead to complications such as cataracts and glaucoma if left untreated. Symptoms of uveitis include bloodshot, watery, or painful eyes. In some cases, the symptoms are not obvious. If blurred vision develops immediate medical care is recommended.
AS can cause neck pain and fatigue in patients.
In some cases, an AS patient can experience heart problems due to inflammation of the aorta, the largest artery in the body carrying blood out of the heart. The aorta can swell and cause damage to the aortic valve disrupting its function.
AS can cause weakening and thinning of the bones, and if this occurs in the spine, vertebrae may crumble, putting pressure on the spinal cord and potentially causing nerve damage.
Patients with AS also have an increased risk of developing inflammatory bowel syndrome (IBS), symptoms of which include diarrhea lasting longer than two weeks, or bloody or slimy stools.
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