Ankylosing Spondylitis - Symptoms
Severe or advanced ankylosing spondylitis
time, the inflammation continues, it will lead to scarring and permanent
- Scarring in the
spine causes the joints of the spine to grow together
(fuse, or "ankylose").
- As the
bones fuse , back pain will gradually go away, but the spine will remain very
stiff and unable to bend. The fused spine is more likely to break (fracture) if
injured, especially the neck (cervical spine).
- Changes in the spine can cause problems with balance, safety, and mobility. The upper spine can curve forward until eventually the person has a hard time looking
straight ahead. Also, as the spine loses its natural curves, it becomes hard to
balance while standing and walking, especially if the hips are also
- Breathing can become difficult as the upper
body curves forward and the chest wall stiffens. Severe ankylosing spondylitis
can also cause scarring of the lungs (pulmonary fibrosis) and an increased risk of lung infection. This can cause even
greater problems in smokers, because their lungs are already more prone to lung
infection and scarring.
- Scarring in the eye from uncontrolled iritis can lead to permanent
visual impairment and glaucoma.
- In rare cases, the heart muscle
can become scarred and the heart valves may become
inflamed. The heart may be unable to pump properly
(heart failure). The main artery leading from the heart
(aorta) can also be affected by becoming inflamed and
enlarged near where it leaves the heart.
- Bowel inflammation is
sometimes linked with ankylosing spondylitis.
- The kidneys can be
affected by taking
medicines over a long period of time.
- Some people who have
ankylosing spondylitis for many years develop
cauda equina syndrome from scarring around the nerves
at the end of the spinal cord. This condition can cause loss of feeling in the
saddle area of the groin and legs. It can also cause problems with bowel and
bladder control and sexual activity. Talk to your doctor if you start having
problems controlling your bowels or bladder.
The stiffening of the chest can feel like the discomfort
or "heaviness" of a heart attack. Ankylosing spondylitis can also cause the
heart to work less efficiently.