Spondylarthritis is an inflammatory rheumatic disease that particularly affects the vertebral joints. It occurs mainly in men and is characterized by back pain and a stiffening of the spine. The disease is chronic and cannot be completely cured.
What is spondylarthritis?
Doctors understand the term spondylarthritis to be an inflammatory disease that primarily affects the vertebral joints. It occurs in the context of rheumatic diseases and can affect both the spine itself and other joints in the body of the person affected. For definition of lumbar spine syndrome in English, please visit acronymmonster.com.
There are different types of the disease. It is manifested by symptoms such as deep back pain, joint stiffness, swelling of the finger or toe joints and, in the later stages, by a rounded back caused by a stiffening of the spine.
Among the patients suffering from spondylarthritis, 70% are men between the ages of 20 and 40. Spondylarthritis is a chronic disease that is fairly treatable but not curable.
The causes of the occurrence of spondylarthritis have not yet been clearly clarified. However, scientists suspect that the disease could be based on a genetic predisposition.
Research has shown that approximately 90% of all patients with spondylarthritis have an abnormality in the HLA-B27 gene. This is a protein complex that is found in almost all human cells. A mutation of this gene can result in certain autoimmune diseases.
The development of spondylarthritis is also attributed to this genetic factor. It is also striking that the occurrence of the disease often runs in families. Several cases of diagnosed spondylarthritis in the family can therefore mean that asymptomatic offspring will later develop the disease.
Typical Symptoms & Signs
- back pain
- lower back pain
- morning joint stiffness
- heel pain
- Round back with stiffening of the spine
Diagnosis & History
Spondylarthritis can be diagnosed in different ways by the attending physician. In the early stages, imaging methods such as X-ray examinations often do not provide any findings.
In the later course, however, bony outgrowths are visible on the affected joints. Patients usually experience pain when the spine is tapped. The following criteria in particular were introduced for the reliable diagnosis of spondylarthritis: persistent back pain for more than three months, restricted movement in the area of the lumbar spine and a reduced breathing width (chest circumference when breathing deeply in and out).
If spondylarthritis remains untreated, it leads to more severe pain as it progresses, which is associated with significant limitations in movement. This can lead to inability to work and a decrease in quality of life in general.
First and foremost, those affected by spondylarthritis suffer from severe pain. These occur mainly in the back or in the lower back and have a very negative effect on the quality of life of those affected. In many cases, the pain also spreads to the groin or neck.
If the pain occurs at night, this leads to sleep problems and thus to irritability in the patient and possibly to depression. Restrictions in movement and in everyday life can also occur. Furthermore, those affected suffer from difficulty walking due to pain in the heel.
If spondylarthritis is not treated, the pain can worsen, making the sufferer unable to work and further reducing the quality of life. The pain associated with spondylarthritis can primarily be treated with painkillers. There are no complications.
However, prolonged use of painkillers can also damage the stomach. Furthermore, the patients are dependent on various exercises and therapies. It may also be necessary to attach an artificial joint to limit the symptoms permanently. The patient’s life expectancy is usually not reduced by spondylarthritis.
When should you go to the doctor?
Spondylarthritis usually always requires medical treatment by a doctor. Since this disease cannot heal itself and the symptoms usually get worse if left untreated, a doctor should be consulted at a very early stage. Complete healing of spondylarthritis is not possible, although starting therapy early can still have a positive effect on the further course of spondylarthritis.
A doctor should be consulted if the person concerned suffers from very severe pain in the back or small of the back. This pain usually occurs in the morning after waking up. Pain in the heel can also indicate the disease and should be examined by a doctor if it occurs over a long period of time and does not go away on its own. Furthermore, many of those affected also suffer from restrictions in their movement and thus also in their everyday life.
In the case of spondylarthritis, an orthopedist or a general practitioner can be consulted. The treatment itself depends on the exact symptoms and their severity. As a rule, the life expectancy of the patient is not limited by this disease.
Treatment & Therapy
Once spondylarthritis has been diagnosed, pain relief is usually the first priority in subsequent treatment. In most cases, this is done with the help of painkillers, anti- rheumatic drugs or so-called muscle relaxants (medicines that relax the muscles).
Cold applications and, if necessary, electrotherapy can also help to relieve the affected person’s pain. In addition, a physiotherapeutic treatment should take place in any case. This can help to maintain the patient’s mobility over a longer period of time. The ability to work can also be maintained longer than without appropriate treatment.
Both drug and physiotherapeutic therapy for spondylarthritis must be permanent in order to slow down the progression of the disease as much as possible. If permanent swelling and hardening or wear and tear of the joints has already occurred, an operation must be carried out in order to insert an artificial joint replacement, for example. Spondylarthritis is a chronic disease that usually progresses quite slowly, but cannot be cured.
Since spondylarthritis is a genetic disease, it cannot actually be prevented. However, people with a family background should see a doctor regularly in order to initiate rapid treatment of the first symptoms if necessary. The same applies if symptoms occur that could be caused by spondylarthritis. The earlier the disease is recognized and treated, the slower it will progress, which can significantly improve the patient’s quality of life.
Since spondylarthritis cannot heal on its own, the person affected by this disease should see a doctor as soon as the first signs and symptoms appear. In many cases, the measures of direct aftercare are significantly limited, so that an early diagnosis must be made in the first place. Complete healing is usually not possible.
Some of the symptoms can be alleviated relatively well with the help of physiotherapy or physiotherapy. The person concerned can also repeat some of the exercises at home and thus accelerate the healing process. Furthermore, the intake of various medications is often very important. The person concerned should always ensure that the medication is taken regularly and that the dosage is correct.
In the event of side effects, uncertainties or questions, consult a doctor first. It is not uncommon for the help of one’s own family to be very important. Compassionate conversations can prevent depression and other mental upsets. Spondylarthritis does not usually reduce the life expectancy of the person affected.
You can do that yourself
In the case of spondyloarthitis, those affected should avoid being overweight as far as possible so that the joints are not put under additional strain. While there is no specific diet to treat this condition, there are certain foods that can provide relief from symptoms. In general, a diet that helps patients to have a positive influence on the chronic inflammatory processes in the body is recommended.
Fatty acids and high-quality fats are particularly important for patients with spondylarthritis. The omega-6 fatty acid “arachidonic acid” is an important starting point for the production of inflammatory substances in the body of those affected. Arachidonic acid is mainly found in animal foods. For this reason, patients should only consume particularly fatty types of sausage and meat in small amounts. The rule of thumb here is that those who are ill should not eat more than a maximum of two meat meals per week. In addition, a limit of two eggs per week is recommended, as eggs also contain a high proportion of the omega-6 fatty acid.
In general, the diet should be very varied and rich in vegetable fats and fiber. Because to fight the inflammatory processes, the body needs a lot of minerals and vitamins. It is also advisable to integrate light exercise into everyday life. This helps to maintain mobility and reduce pain.