What is Spondyloarthritis?
Spondyloarthritis is a form of arthritis that is considered an autoimmune disease. This disease generally attacks the joints of the spinal column, though other joints in the body may be affected by this condition. Except in the case of this disease affecting the digestive system, what differentiates Spondyloarthritis from other forms of arthritis is the location that this disease usually affects your joints. Spondyloarthritis is known to affect the junction where tendons and ligaments attach to the bone. These sites are referred to as entheses. There are several different forms of Spondyloarthritis:
- Axial Spondylarthritis: this is when the disease attacks mainly your pelvic girdle and/or spine
- Peripheral Spondyloarthritis: this form of the disease attacks the joints of the arms and legs
- Reactive Arthritis: occurs in response to an infection in the body, this was once called Reiter’s Syndrome
- Juvenile arthritis
- Psoriatic Arthritis: a form of arthritis that occurs in people with psoriasis in response to chronic inflammation damaging joints
- Enteropathic arthritis/spondylitis: These forms of the disease occur in response to Inflammatory Bowel Disease and consist of Crohn’s Disease and ulcerative colitis
- Ankylosing Spondylitis: arthritis of the spine that leads to an eventual fusing of the spinal column
The different forms of Spondyloarthritis are much more common in men than women and symptoms of this disease generally begin to appear in a person’s teens or twenties.
What Causes Spondyloarthritis?
There is no known cause of Spondyloarthritis. Genetics is the main factor that plays a role in this condition. It has been found that up to 30 different genes may cause this condition.
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Symptoms of Spondyloarthritis can range from mild to severe and may be similar to those of other arthritic joints. There are, however, certain symptoms that are specific to the different types of Spondyloarthritis listed above. These are:
- Pain and stiffness in the back and or neck which may come and go
- Less commonly, pain and stiffness in the hands, feet, arms, or legs
- Rashes from Psoriasis of the skin
- Swelling of joints
- Digestive problems
- Swelling and redness in your eye or both eyes
- Osteoporosis, or weakening of bones
- Breathing problems
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Treatments for Spondyloarthritis
There are no cures for Spondyloarthritis. Treating this disease consists of figuring out an effective way to live and manage the symptoms of this condition. This disease will not shorten your lifespan if appropriate measures are taken to manage it. Many people with this condition manage to live long lives. Current treatments available for this condition are:
- A course of physical therapy in order strengthen muscles and maintain flexibility
- Steroid treatment
- NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) such as Ibuprofen and Naproxen
- Corticosteroid injections
- Anti-rheumatic medication such as Methotrexate
- Antibiotics, only indicated in the case of Reactive Arthritis
- TNF (tumor-necrosis factor) blockers: a newer class of drugs that have been approved by the FDA to treat arthritis
- Frequent exercise and proper nutrition
- When joint damage is severe enough due to the damage from chronic inflammation, surgical intervention may be necessary consisting of a total hip replacement