About Ankylosing Spondylitis

I started this blog in late 2012, as I began training for my first marathon.  My goal was to share my training experience and to raise money for the fight against Ankylosing Spondylitis, a disease that has changed my sister’s life.  I am proud to say that I raised $2500 for the Spondylitis Association of America, and I hope that through this blog, I can raise some awareness of this debilitating disease.  Though the blog has evolved since that first marathon and I now tend to write only about running, many people find my website while searching for info on AS.  If you are one of those people, I hope you will find these links helpful.

I run because I can, because I have my health and am grateful and determined not to waste that gift.  I would gladly share that strength with my sister if it meant she could have pain-free days.  In my perfect world, we are equally strong.

Here are some general descriptions of AS along with a new link from Healthline.com describing the effect of AS on the body.

From the Spondylitis Association of America:

Ankylosing spondylitis (pronounced ank-kih-low-sing spon-dill-eye-tiss), or AS, is a form of arthritis that primarily affects the spine, although other joints can become involved. It causes inflammation of the spinal joints (vertebrae) that can lead to severe, chronic pain and discomfort. In the most advanced cases (but not in all cases), this inflammation can lead to new bone formation on the spine, causing the spine to fuse in a fixed, immobile position, sometimes creating a forward-stooped posture. This forward curvature of the spine is called kyphosis.

AS can also cause inflammation, pain and stiffness in other areas of the body such as the shoulders, hips, ribs, heels and small joints of the hands and feet. Sometimes the eyes can become involved (known as Iritis or Uveitis), and rarely, the lungs and heart can be affected.

From the Arthritis Foundation:

Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) (ANK-ki-low-sing spon-di-LIE-tis) is a chronic inflammatory disease that primarily affects the sacroiliac joints (where the spine attaches to the pelvis), spine, and hip joints. Ankylosing is a term meaning stiff or rigid and spondylitis means inflammation of the spine.

Enthesitis (inflammation of the place where ligaments and muscles attach to bones) accounts for much of the pain and stiffness of AS. This inflammation eventually can lead to bony fusion of the joints (where the fibrous ligaments transform to bone, and the joint permanently grows together).

Other joints can also develop synovitis (inflammation of the lining of the joint), with lower limb joints more commonly involved than upper-limb joints.

AS is one of a family of arthritis-related diseases called the seronegative spondylarthropathies. Seronegative means people with the disease test negative for the antibody rheumatoid factor and spondylarthropathy means joint disease of the spine. Ankylosing spondylitis most often develops in young adult men and it lasts a lifetime.

Early diagnosis and proper treatment can help control the pain and stiffness associated with AS, and may reduce or prevent deformity. Daily exercise of the affected joints is the most important treatment for AS. Medications that relieve pain and inflammation (usually nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) will allow you to get the exercise you need to maintain flexibility and mobility.  Newer biologic agents such as tumor necrosis factor inhibitors can be very effective in patients who do not have significant relief with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.  Although these agents are very effective in the short term, it remains to be seen whether they can alter the progressive ankylosis (fusion of some or all spinal joints) of the disease in the long term.

From Healthline.com:

The main area of inflammation is the spine, particularly the lower spine. Pain and stiffness are generally greater in the morning or after a long period of sitting. Fortunately, moving around usually alleviates the symptoms. Over many years, AS can lead to curvature of the spine, resulting in a stooped posture.

Pain may also occur in the upper spine, neck, and even in the chest. Unlike some other forms of arthritis, AS usually doesn’t affect the fingers. According to the Spondylitis Association of America, about 10 percent of people with AS have jaw inflammation, which can get in the way of chewing.

Chronic inflammation can cause bones to fuse together, restricting your ability to move. If bones in the chest fuse, it could affect breathing. In some cases, inflammation also occurs in other joints, such as the shoulders, hips, knees, ankles, or heels. This can cause pain and reduced mobility.

Celebrate your health!  Run if you are blessed with the ability!  And just because I can’t stay serious for too long and I know it is a lifesaver for my sister, Viva la Vicodin!

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