Like many other types of inflammatory arthritis, AS can cause severe, chronic pain in the affected areas of the body. In very advanced cases, the disease can cause new bone formation, essentially fusing the spine. Sometimes this fusion results in a forward stooped posture called kyphosis.
At this time, there is no cure for AS. However, medications can suppress the disease and manage pain. Early treatment is key to keeping mobility and limiting the damage that inflammation can cause. Treating AS involves both anti-inflammatory medications and disease modifying drugs, such as methotrexate and the Biologics. People react differently to medication, and it may take some time to find a medication that works for you.
Managing AS isn’t just about medication. A number of other things can help, too. Physiotherapy and exercise can help you stay mobile. Occupational therapy can help offer tools to function in your daily life. Healthy eating makes your general health better, and relaxation techniques, such as meditation and mindfulness, can help you deal with stress and cope better.
Surgery may be an option for those who have severe, advanced AS. Joint replacements in the hips or knees can bring relief to damaged joints. After joint replacement, you can expect less pain, better movement, and better function. Surgery on the spine is reserved for people who have a severe spinal deformity, as this type of surgery is very complicated.
The most common complication of AS is fusion of the spine. It can also cause fusion in your rib cage, potentially affecting your lung function. Other potential complications include uveitis (an inflammation of the eye, causing pain, blurred vision, and sensitivity to light) and compression fractures in the spine. Inflammation of AS can also affect the aorta, enlarging it and affecting heart function.
You may wish to get counselling, especially in the beginning to help you adjust to having a chronic illness. Living with a chronic illness is easier when you have support from family and friends and from other people living with the same disease. Look for in-person support groups or online groups of people with AS.