Spondyloarthritis: Types, Symptoms, Treatment

Overview

Spondyloarthritis, or spondyloarthropathy, is a group of inflammatory diseases that may affect the spine and, in some people, the joints of the arms and legs. It can also cause damage to the skin, intestines, and eyes. The main symptom of the disease is pain in your low back.

Men in their teens and 20s are more likely to develop spondyloarthritis. People with a family member having the disease are at higher risk. Experts have not found methods to prevent the disease yet. But with early diagnosis and prompt treatment, patients can relieve their symptoms and lead a normal life.

Types

The most common type of spondyloarthritis is ankylosing spondylitis. It mainly affects the spine. Other types of the condition include:

  • Reactive arthritis
  • Psoriatic arthritis
  • Enteropathic arthritis
  • Axial spondyloarthritis, which affects mostly the spine and pelvic joints
  • Peripheral spondyloarthritis, affecting mainly the arms and legs

Causes

The exact cause of spondyloarthritis is still not clear. Researches show that genetics play a role in the disease because people with the gene marker HLA-B27 are more likely to be affected. Counting in all the types of the disease, up to 30 of genes related to it have been found.

As to specific types, reactive arthritis is the only type of spondyloarthritis known to be triggered by bacterial infection. It most commonly occurs after chlamydia or a food-borne infection. The cause of enteropathic arthritis is unknown. It may be due to bacteria entering the bowel when inflammation damages it.

Symptoms

Depending on the types of spondyloarthritis, the signs and symptoms the disease manifests may be slightly different. Generally, the disorder may be associated with symptoms like:

  • Back pain
  • Digestive problems
  • Fatigue
  • Skin rash
  • Swelling, pain, or redness in part of an eye
  • Inflammation of the aortic heart valve
  • Swelling along the tendons of your fingers or toes
  • Pain or swelling in other joints, including your hips, knees, ankles, feet, hands, wrists, elbows, and shoulders

Diagnosis

Early diagnosis is rather important to help control symptoms and reduce your risk of further complications. Your doctor will first ask you about the medical and family history, and then do a physical exam to look for typical signs and symptoms of spondyloarthritis. To confirm the diagnosis, he or she may also order some tests, including:

  • X-rays of the sacroiliac joints in the pelvis to reveal changes in the joints, which is the key sign of the disease
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to show the joints more clearly and to pick up early involvement
  • A blood test to check for the HLA-B27 gene

In the end, based on your symptoms and results of the tests, your doctor will make a judgment of whether you have spondyloarthritis.

Treatment

There exists no cure for spondyloarthritis. The current treatment options all aim at reducing pain and inflammation, maintaining mobility, and reducing your risk of complications.

Medications that may help manage the symptoms of the condition include:

Besides, physical therapy and joint-directed exercises are helpful for patients with spondyloarthritis to maintain mobility. Most therapists would recommend exercises that promote spinal extension and mobility.

Severe cases of the disorder may require surgery to treat bone destruction or cartilage damage. You should also stop smoking cigarettes because smoking is a known cause of inflammation in the body.


Keyword: spondyloarthritis.

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* The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.