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Arthritis Health Center

What Is Ankylosing Spondylitis?

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How Is AS Diagnosed?

In addition to asking you about your symptoms, your doctor will do tests. A physical exam can show signs of inflammation in your joints or limited back movement. Your doctor will ask you about your medical history and find out if your parents or other relatives had the condition. You may see a specialist called a rheumatologist (an arthritis doctor) to diagnose or treat your AS.

Tests used to diagnose AS include:

  • X-ray. Remember, early on when you have AS, there may be no signs of the disease on an X-ray. It usually shows up after several years.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). An image of your sacroiliac joints (where your spine connects to your pelvis) may show swelling and inflammation.
  • CT scan. An image that uses X-rays
  • Blood tests for the HLA-B27 gene or signs of inflammation

What Are the Treatments?

There are many medications used as ankylosing spondylitis treatments. Newer ones may stop inflammation before it starts to damage your joints or organs like your eyes. Treatments include:

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen, indomethacin, meloxicam (Mobic), or naproxen
  • Corticosteroid shots in your joints
  • Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) like methotrexate or sulfasalazine (Azulfidine)
  • Biologic DMARDs like adalimumab (Humira), etanercept (Enbrel), golimumab (Simponi), or infliximab (Remicade)

Surgery can help a curved spine or neck, as well as damaged knees and hips.

Are There Alternative Treatments for AS?

Ask your doctor about how these techniques can help ease pain and stiffness in addition to your other treatments:

  • Acupuncture
  • Massage
  • Yoga
  • Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS)

What Can I Do to Improve My Quality of Life?

You can do many things to feel better and live an active life.

Keep moving. Daily exercise helps you stay flexible. It can help you ease back pain and stiffness. A physical therapist can teach you how to exercise safely. Work out in a warm pool to make movement easier.

Practice posture. Sitting and standing up straight may also help with pain and stiffness.

Heat and cold. Using moist heat pads or taking hot showers can ease your stiff, sore back. Cold packs can lower swelling in inflamed joints.

Healthy lifestyle and food choices. Keep a healthy body weight or ask your doctor how you can lose weight if you need to. Extra pounds stress your back and other joints. Smoking makes AS worse.

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