If you, or a loved one, have been diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis (AS), then you probably have a lot of questions.
The condition, which causes a painful inflammation of the spine, is especially confusing because this type of arthritis is neither widely known nor well understood. As a result, there are many misconceptions, which can lead to greater anxiety for sufferers. In this blog, we separate the fact from the fiction and clear up some of the myths surrounding this mysterious condition. Read on to find out more.
Myth: Ankylosing spondylitis is rare
You may have never heard of this condition before, however, it is the most common inflammatory rheumatic disease in the family of spondyloarthritis, a group that differs from other types of arthritis, as symptoms occur where ligaments and tendons meet the bone.
Myth: It only affects the spine
Chronic back pain is the most common symptom that leads to a diagnosis of ankylosing spondylitis. However, it can and does affect other parts of the body, including the hips, knees, shoulders, ribs and even the body’s main artery – the aorta – as well as the eyes.
Myth: Only older people get it
AS is typically diagnosed between the age of 15 and 30, and rarely after 45. It is not a disease connected with getting older.
Myth: AS will lead to a deformity or disability
Repeated bouts of inflammation can sometimes lead to spinal fusion. This can severely limit movement and make it difficult to keep the spine straight. This does not happen to everyone, and many people with AS have mild symptoms, which can be effectively managed. Lifestyle changes can be effective, such as extension exercises and sleeping without a pillow.
Myth: Exercise will make AS worse
Low-impact physical activity can help sufferers feel better. Research confirms that most patients who regularly perform strengthening, stretching and respiratory exercises can improve posture, reduce stress and fatigue and enjoy a better quality of life. Swimming is also beneficial.
Myth: AS is hereditary
Although ankylosing spondylitis can occur in more than one person in a family it is not purely a genetic disease. Multiple genetic and environmental factors are likely to play a part in determining the risk of developing this disorder. As a result, inheriting a genetic variation linked with ankylosing spondylitis does not mean that a person will develop the condition.
Myth: AS leads to blindness
Patients with ankylosing spondylitis can develop inflammation of the iris – the coloured portion of the eye. This is called iritis and is characterised by redness and pain in the eye, especially when looking at bright lights. In addition, the eye can become inflamed. This is referred to as uveitis. Treatment may require cortisone drops or the need to see an ophthalmologist.
Myth: There is nothing you can do about AS
There is no cure for ankylosing spondylitis. It is a chronic disease, however, in most cases, it can be successfully managed. The short-term goal is to ease symptoms, the long-term goal is to prevent or minimise progression. There are many medication options depending on your individual symptoms and these will all be taken into consideration by the team treating you.
Myth: It is best to put off treatment for as long as possible
Early diagnosis of AS is very important. People who receive treatment within two years of being diagnosed are more likely to have a better outcome than those who delay. Having all the facts to hand can help make living with ankylosing spondylitis easier.
Here at Brian Barr, we are not medical experts, however, we are specialist solicitors with experience in helping ankylosing spondylitis sufferers to claim compensation. To find out more about how we can help, call us on 0161 737 9248 or click here to fill in our online contact form.