The Risks of Not Treating Ankylosing Spondylitis
Ankylosing spondylitis (AS), a progressive inflammatory disease that affects vertebrae in the spine and often the hip, knee, and shoulder joints, can be difficult to diagnose. Many of my patients come to me with symptoms such as back and hip pain and stiffness, which are similar to other forms of spinal arthritis or general chronic back pain conditions. Early symptoms of AS are often minor and, as a result, are ignored or attributed to other things such as overexertion or injury. But, the longer AS goes untreated, the more debilitating and widespread symptoms may become.
While some people have only mild, occasional back pain and stiffness, others develop severe mobility issues that impact their range of motion and ability to perform even the simplest task such as tying their shoes. Early diagnosis and treatment may help reduce symptoms and long-term complications, but if left untreated, AS may progress to the following conditions:
Limited Mobility and Spinal Deformity
AS causes inflammation in the spine, and if this inflammation goes untreated, the vertebrae in the spine can fuse together, impacting a person’s mobility and appearance. Depending on where the spine fuses and how severe it is, AS could result in a curved back or hunchback–or worse, the inability to lift your neck. In severe cases, the vertebrae in the neck can fuse together, leading to difficulty raising the head, eating, or even breathing. When this occurs, complex spinal surgery may be necessary.