Glossary On Symptoms

“Slowly the pain in the back started, lasted a few days and then suddenly disappeared only to come back again after a few days”.

Gradual progress of ankylosing spondylitis makes it difficult for the patients to exactly pin-point the onset of the ailment. In addition, the initial symptoms are vague such as nagging pain and stiffness (arthritis) in the lower back and hips that has lasted for quite some time. Thus, by the time patients seek treatment, the disease has already progressed to a certain level.

The classical areas that are affected by this condition are:

  • Spine (cervical, dorsal, lumbar)
  • Sacro-iliac joints
  • Knees, hips, shoulders
  • Joints between the ribs and the spine
  • Eyes

Symptoms due to the affection of these areas include:

  • Backache and stiffness along the spine – usually worse in the mornings or after periods of inactivity
  • The joint pain (arthritis) experienced by the patient is often relieved by motion, applying local heat or taking a warm shower
  • Pain in the hips, buttock pain
  • Difficulty in bending down (inflexibility)
  • Stooping posture due to chronic back pain
  • Neck pain
  • Pain in heels
  • Affection of other joints leading to pain and stiffness – E.g. knee pain, shoulder pain, ankle pain
  • Expansion of the chest during breathing is restricted
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Inflammation of the eyes (iritis) where there is redness of eyes and pain while looking at bright lights
  • Lungs may be affected by ankylosing spondylitis leading to breathing difficulty
  • Pain and stiffness in the back of the heel (Achilles tendinitis)
  • Inflammation of the tissues of the bottom of the foot causing pain (plantar fasciitis)
  • Rarely the electrical system of the heart may be affected leading to a slow heart rate – patient experiences symptoms of dizziness, fainting and shortness of breath in such cases
  • The kidney may also be affected leading to accumulation of the toxins in the body that causes nausea and chronic fatigue

Advanced cases with chronic affection can develop a completely fused spine – here all the joints in between the vertebrae are fused (ankylosed) and the patient develops an inflexible spine. The spine pain or backache usually disappears at this stage. Such a fused spine is very prone to develop fractures due to injury.

During the course of this disease, there are periods when the patient is absolutely free of pain or any complaints (remission) and periods when the disease becomes active again (relapses).

Ankylosing Spondylitis