Ankylosing spondylitis is a form of chronic inflammation of the spine and the sacroiliac joints. The sacroiliac joints are located in the low back where the sacrum (the bone directly above the tailbone) meets the iliac bones (bones on either side of the upper buttocks). Chronic inflammation in these areas causes pain and stiffness in and around the spine. Over time, chronic inflammation of the spine (spondylitis) can lead to a complete cementing together (fusion) of the vertebrae, a process referred to as ankylosis. Ankylosis leads to loss of mobility of the spine.
Ankylosing spondylitis is two to three times more common in men than in women. In women, joints away from the spine are more frequently affected than in men. Ankylosing spondylitis affects all age groups, including children. When it affects children, it is referred to as juvenile ankylosing spondylitis. The most common age of onset of symptoms is in the second and third decades of life.
Causes:Ankylosing spondylitis has no known specific cause, though genetic factors seem to be involved. In particular, people who have a gene called HLA-B27 are at significantly increased risk of developing ankylosing spondylitis. As ankylosing spondylitis worsens and the inflammation persists, new bone forms as part of the body's attempt to heal. This new bone gradually bridges the gap between vertebrae and eventually fuses sections of vertebrae together. Those parts of your spine become stiff and inflexible. Fusion can also stiffen your rib cage, restricting your lung capacity and function.
Early signs and symptoms of ankylosing spondylitis may include pain and stiffness in your lower back and hips, especially in the morning and after periods of inactivity. These symptoms may come on so gradually that you don't notice them at first. Over time, symptoms may worsen, improve or stop completely at irregular intervals.
The areas most commonly affected are:
- The joint between the base of your spine and your pelvis
- The vertebrae in your lower back
- The places where your tendons and ligaments attach to bones, mainly in your spine, but sometimes along the back of your heel
- The cartilage between your breastbone and ribs
- Your hip and shoulder joints
- Sex. Men are more likely to develop ankylosing spondylitis than are women.
- Age. Onset generally occurs in late adolescence or early adulthood.
- Heredity. Most people who have ankylosing spondylitis have the HLA-B27 gene. But many people who have this gene never develop ankylosing spondylitis.
Ankylosing spondylitis doesn't follow a set course. The severity of symptoms and development of complications vary widely from person to person. Complications may include:
- Eye inflammation (uveitis). One of the most common complications of ankylosing spondylitis, uveitis can cause rapid-onset eye pain, sensitivity to light and blurred vision.
- Compression fractures. Some people experience a thinning of their bones during the early stages of ankylosing spondylitis. Weakened vertebrae may crumble, increasing the severity of your stooped posture. Vertebral fractures sometimes can damage the spinal cord and the nerves that pass through the spine.
- Difficulty breathing. If ankylosing spondylitis affects your ribs, the fused bones can't move when you breathe - making it difficult to fully inflate your lungs.
- Heart problems. Ankylosing spondylitis can cause problems with your aorta, the largest artery in your body.
Homoeopathic medication provides the patient with significant relief in the pain and the stiffness associated with the disease. There is also improvement in the general symptoms associated with AS such as weakness, loss of appetite, fever, etc. Continued Homeopathic medication can also help in delaying the onset of complications. In advanced cases where structural changes in the joints have progressed, the medicines can offer significant pain control.
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