What is Ankylosing Spondylitis? - Symptoms & Treatment

What is Ankylosing Spondylitis? - Symptoms & Treatment
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  • 0:07 A Condition that…
  • 0:26 What Is Ankylosing…
  • 0:51 Why Does Ankylosing…
  • 3:21 Clinical Signs,…
  • 3:50 Treatment of…
  • 4:16 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Artem Cheprasov
This lesson will go over a condition called ankylosing spondylitis and whom it is most likely to affect, why it may occur, what symptoms and signs it causes, and the way it can diagnosed and treated.

A Condition That Affects the Spine

Being called spineless is an insult. It means you can't stand up for yourself or others in critical times. Basically, if you're spineless, you're a wimp.

That may sound kind of degrading. However, if you truly didn't have a spine, you'd actually avoid a serious and degrading condition that may affect anyone who actually does have a spine.

What Is Ankylosing Spondylitis?

This condition is called ankylosing spondylitis. It's an inflammatory, arthritic disease that affects the spine and sacroiliac joints as well as other parts of the body. In fact, this inflammatory disease can affect everything from a person's eyes to their heart.

There may be a hereditary predisposition to this condition, and men, especially adolescents and young adults, seem to be more likely to have this disease.

Why Does Ankylosing Spondylitis Occur?

We don't know much about the exact mechanisms that trigger this specific condition, but we understand that it's an inflammatory disease. This means that the process of inflammation begins to overload the body.

Normally, the inflammatory process is supposed to do you a world of good by getting rid of harmful pathogens, like bacteria, viruses, and so forth. But, in conditions like ankylosing spondylitis, something, somewhere, goes wrong.

Instead of fighting off infection, the inflammatory process for some reason just attacks your own body instead. It's basically like your immune system is the ancient Roman Praetorian Guard. They were supposed to protect the emperor at all costs, but sometimes these imperial bodyguards actually attacked and killed their own leader for any number of reasons. The same insidious deceit occurs within your own body when your inflammatory system tries to harm you instead of saving you.

The end result is that over the long term, the inflammation of the vertebral and pelvic joints occurs. That's why this condition is classified as an arthritic condition. It's because the word arthritis directly means the inflammation of the joint.

While it can affect the entire body, this inflammation seems to be targeted or incites the most memorable effects in the spine, where prolonged inflammation causes your body to actually try and repair itself. Since the joints are so badly damaged in this condition, and it's very painful and even more damaging for the affected joints to move against one another, your body actually tries to stop this painful movement by forming bony bridges between the joints.

It's as if each side of the joint was once a land mass that was split into two peninsulas as a result of an earthquake. The people on either peninsula are in pain since they can't connect with their loved ones on the other side and therefore build a bridge to, well, bridge the gap between them to bring stability into their lives.

These bony bridges permanently stiffen up the spine in a crooked position. The permanent fusion of the bones that were once separated by a joint space is known as ankylosis and therefore, gives ankylosing spondylitis the first part of its name. The spondylitis refers to the inflammation, 'itis', of the spinal vertebrae, or 'spondylos.' Basically, this disease is translated as the fusion of the spinal vertebrae as a result of inflammation, which is essentially what occurs as I just described.

Clinical Signs, Symptoms, and Diagnostics

Besides ankylosis, other signs and symptoms include:

  • Pain and stiffness in the back and hips
  • A forward curvature of the spine, known as kyphosis, resulting in a hunchback appearance and difficulty breathing
  • Arthritis in other joints
  • Vision loss

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