Early Diagnosis of Ankylosing Spondylitis is Important

A painful, inflammatory disorder mostly affecting the spine is called ankylosing spondylitis (AS). New research shows that early diagnosis is important to prevent permanent deformities. If offered early enough, patient education and physical therapy can make a difference.

Early diagnosis can be difficult. In this report, rheumatologists offer some helpful advice to doctors about making an early diagnosis of AS. Early disease can be recognized by spinal pain and stiffness. The patient also reports fatigue. All of these symptoms are present in early adulthood. Some patients recall similar symptoms in childhood.

Standard methods of diagnosis may miss early AS. Early changes are seen on special MRIs. The radiologist will see cartilage changes, intra-articular inflammation, and bone marrow edema.

X-rays are still taken first. X-ray findings along with signs of inflammatory back pain guide the physician in ordering the more expensive MRIs. Signs of inflammatory back pain include:

  • Symptoms occur without a known cause or traumatic event
  • Patient is younger than 40 years old
  • Painful, stiff symptoms last more than three months
  • Symptoms (especially stiffness) are worse in the morning
  • Symptoms improve with movement and exercise

    The authors advise physicians to look for other clues to the early diagnosis of AS. These may include buttock pain on one side. Neck or upper back pain and limited low back motion. Decreased chest expansion is another important finding. Lab tests are not usually diagnostic but may be helpful.

    Kara Prescott, MD, and Joel D. Taurog, MD. Ankylosing Spondylitis: The Difficulty and Importance of Early Diagnosis. In The Journal of Musculoskeletal Medicine. April 2007. Vol. 24. No. 4. Pp. 163-173.



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  • Comments

    Spondylitis is Important

    This terrified me and I had not felt as scared as I ever had before. I begged and pleaded and held onto the side of the bed crying. They did not listen and did it anyway. The pain I then felt run through me was beyond anything I'd ever felt before. Lightyears beyond the pain I had felt during the xray.
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    This a rather common

    This a rather common affection these days and it can cause a lot of pain and discomfort. Early diagnosis is indeed important but prevention is better. Avoid working at the computer of at a desk for hours in a row, take a five minute break every hour and do a little neck and back gymnastics, don't let your joints get stuck.
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    Bad disease specially that early diagnosis can be difficult. I heard that there is no cure for AS, although treatments and medications are available to reduce symptoms and pain.
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