Spondyloarthritis is an umbrella term that
describes different types of arthritis. These types mainly affect the spine,
but they can also cause symptoms in other parts of the body.
There has been some debate about whether
spondyloarthritis is an autoimmune condition or an autoinflammatory condition.
However, recent research suggests that spondyloarthritis is indeed an
There are several subtypes of spondyloarthritis.
Each can involve a different part of the body.
The following sections will look at some of these
types in more detail.
Ankylosing spondylitis is the most common form of
spondyloarthritis. It involves ligaments, tendons, and joint capsules attaching
to bones in the spine and peripheral joints.
It can cause the bones in the spine to fuse
together, leading to stiffness and immobility.
This type of spondyloarthritis primarily involves
the joints in the spine and pelvis.
spondyloarthritis, the non-radiographic form also affects the spine and causes
lower back pain.
effects of non-radiographic spondyloarthritis are not visible on X-rays. They
are only visible on more sensitive imaging tests, such as MRI scans.
spondyloarthritis describes a number of spondyloarthritis subsets.
It mainly affects
the hands and feet. However, it can also cause inflammation in the:
Rheumatoid arthritis vs. spondyloarthritis
arthritis and spondyloarthritis are very common. Although they share some
similarities, the conditions also have significant differences.
tends to be more common in males, whereas rheumatoid arthritis is more common
arthritis symptoms typically start appearing when a person is around 40–50
years of age. The symptoms of spondyloarthritis usually occur earlier than
The early symptoms
of rheumatoid arthritis usually affect the hands and feet. The early symptoms
of spondyloarthritis usually start with back pain.
Lower back or hip
pain is a common early symptom. However, symptoms can vary depending on the
type of spondyloarthritis a person has.
elsewhere in the body is a symptom of spondyloarthritis. It can especially
inflammation can cause:
irritation and redness in the eyes
eye pain, light sensitivity, and blurry
pain in the tendons of the fingers and
Another symptom of
spondyloarthritis and the swelling it causes is psoriatic rashes. These may
appear differently depending on a person’s skin color.
These symptoms may
be particularly painful first thing in the morning or after periods of rest.
spondyloarthritis could lead to a person developing the following conditions:
A person who is
experiencing symptoms of spondyloarthritis should contact a doctor to treat the
condition. This may help prevent these complications.
When to contact a doctor
If a person has
had chronic lower back pain since before the age of 40 years, they may have
spondyloarthritis. People often assume that they simply have back pain due to
poor posture or other mechanical issues.
Because the pain
can come and go, some people may assume that the pain is not important.
However, not seeking treatment for spondyloarthritis can lead to complications
A person who
suspects that they have spondyloarthritis should contact a doctor. They should
provide the doctor with details about their pain onset and whether or not they
have other inflammatory symptoms that might suggest the
A doctor will
diagnose spondyloarthritis by taking a person’s medical history and performing
a physical exam.
Imaging can help
confirm a diagnosis. The doctor may request an MRI scan if an X-ray does not
show damage but a person has symptoms that suggest the presence of
A blood test is
also available for the HLA-B27 gene, which is a gene associated with the condition. However, testing positive
for the gene does not necessarily mean that a person has spondyloarthritis.
The doctor can
also perform ESR tests or CRP tests on the blood in order to determine if
swelling is present in the body. This can also help diagnose spondyloarthritis.
The doctor may
also choose to carry out a complete blood count, to diagnose anemia, or a
metabolic panel, to analyze a person’s kidney and liver function.
professionals can mistake spondyloarthritis for other similar conditions, which
can delay diagnosis and treatment. This is especially the case among females.
There is currently
no cure for this condition. However, treatment can help relieve the symptoms
and slow the progress of the condition.
corticosteroid injections to specific
disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs,
including Janus kinase inhibitors
topical gels and creams for joint pain
and skin-related side effects
surgery (when the joints have severe
biologic drugs, including TNF
alpha-blockers and IL-17 blockers
Biologics are very
effective but expensive. These drugs can also increase a person’s risk of
therapy can help restore range of motion in the affected joints.
One 2020 study
involved putting 100 people with axial spondyloarthritis, non-radiographic
axial spondyloarthritis, or psoriatic arthritis with axial involvement on physical
therapy treatment programs.
significantly improved the pain that the condition caused, including among
those with secondary conditions such as fibromyalgia.
therapy can also help a person improve or maintain their ability to perform
day-to-day activities. An occupational therapist can provide recommendations
and assistive devices to help prevent further injury.
spondyloarthritis can make performing certain everyday tasks more difficult,
but it is possible to manage the symptoms. Also, the condition does not usually
affect a person’s life expectancy significantly.
Symptoms such as
pain and fatigue may come and go, and treatments can help a person live with
changes can also make living with spondyloarthritis easier. These changes
exercising, for joint and heart health
eating an anti-inflammatory diet
improving sleep hygiene
There are also spondyloarthritis
support groups available for people who may need additional support.
treatment for spondyloarthritis can lead to complications. Joints can fuse, for
example, which may cause severe stiffness or immobility.
The symptoms of
spondyloarthritis can come and go. However, even if a person does not
constantly experience symptoms, they should still contact a doctor.
treatment can lead to more complications of the condition. For example, it
could become increasingly painful.
With the right
treatment, people with spondyloarthritis can live an active life. Although
there is no way to cure the condition, it is possible to manage the symptoms
and prevent disease progression.
behavioral changes and trying medical treatments can make the pain and
inflammation of spondyloarthritis more manageable.
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