Ankylosing Spondylitis – This is a joint pain (arthritis) that affects the spine, causing irritation and pain. Individuals with AS frequently experience flare-ups which can be quite debilitating. The symptoms of AS flares can vary from person to person and among flares include:
- stiffness and pain in the back
- joint pain, often in the rib cage, shoulders, hips, or knees
- enthesitis, which is swelling and pain of the connective tissue
- depression or anxiety
Someone who may be suffering from an AS flare may have burning joints, muscle spasms, and flu-like symptoms, in addition to pain and immobility in the affected areas of the body.
Diagnosis for (AS) can be difficult to diagnose because the condition develops slowly and there’s no definitive test. Your GP may arrange blood tests to check for signs of inflammation in your body. If you are sent to see a rheumatologist they will carry out imaging tests to examine the appearance of your spine and pelvis, as well as further blood tests.
These may include:
Treatment for AS includes nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), gentle exercise, massage therapy, tens machines and hot and cold therapies.
Psoriatic Spondylitis – This causes similar symptoms to AS and includes:
- back pain
- stiffness in the back or neck that improves when moving around
- stiffness made worse by periods of staying still, such as sleep
- trouble bending or moving the back
These symptoms can cause extreme pain and some people experience difficulty in their daily lives. Left untreated, the inflammation can cause long-term damage to the spine and joints.
The symptoms of PS may seem to come and go. When symptoms get worse, this is known as a flare. The location of pain and swelling may also change over time. Certain infections, such as strep throat, may trigger the overactive immune response that causes psoriatic spondylitis. However, psoriatic spondylitis is not contagious.
Diagnosis of PS involves a GP who will make a diagnosis based on symptoms and medical history, and by ruling out other conditions. Usually, a blood test will be carried out to test for rheumatoid factor (the antibody found in rheumatoid arthritis). This is usually negative in people with psoriatic arthritis, although a positive result can be due to causes other than rheumatoid arthritis. A doctor may also use X Rays, ultrasounds or other scans, such as an MRI to look at the patient’s joints. These scans often show inflammation or areas of new bone growth with poorly-defined edges in people with psoriatic arthritis. The criteria are inflammatory arthritis, the presence of psoriasis, and a blood test negative for rheumatoid factor.
Treatment for PS is similar to AS and includes nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), immunosuppressants, and biologic medications, such as TNF inhibitors. Gentle exercise, massage therapy, tens machines and hot and cold therapies.
Spondylitis (also called spondyloarthritis) refers to a group of inflammatory conditions that affect the spine. The most common type is ankylosing spondylitis, but there are other forms that have links to other inflammatory diseases, such as psoriasis.
According to the Spondylitis Association of America, 20 percent of people with psoriatic arthritis (PsA) will develop psoriatic spondylitis. This means that you have PsA with spinal involvement.
Keeping a strict diary of your symptoms will really help your GP to decide if he thinks you may have one of these conditions. You can find out lots more details on these two conditions on the Arthritis website.