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Spondyloarthritis is not a single disease entity, but a group of disorders that affect the spine, joints and even the eyes, skin and bowel.

Spondyloarthritis patients are typically young (under 40 years old) and more men than women are affected.  Symptoms include:

  • Lower back pain

  • Stiffness in the joints and neck and sometimes,

  • Swelling of fingers and toes

Treatment for spondyloarthritis

As a first line treatment, your doctor may prescribe non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to reduce inflammation and pain. Occasionally, corticosteroids may be prescribed for short-term use to suppress unwanted inflammation. Sometimes more potent drugs such as methotrexate or sulfasalazine may be prescribed if you do not respond well to NSAIDs or are dependent on high dose steroids.

Newer drugs called TNF-blockers which block inflammatory proteins, have been shown to be highly effective in treating arthritis of the joints as well as spinal arthritis. This group of medications includes Enbrel®, Remicade® and Humira®.

Surgery may very occasionally be needed if joint damage is severe and there are significant secondary degenerative changes.

Benefits of exercise

Exercise plays a very important role in helping to improve posture by reducing stiffness and pain. Most patients will benefit from a daily home exercise regime as recommended by a physiotherapist. Excessive inactivity can certainly increase the risk for spinal fusion. However, bear in mind that if you have Ankylosing spondylitis, you should avoid high impact sports and heavy weight bearing exercises due to the increased risk of spinal fracture.

What happens if I do not get treatment?

The symptoms of spondyloarthritis may either worsen, stabilise at any stage of the disease, or go into remission. The course of the disease is thus unpredictable. Symptoms may come and go at any time. However, uunless there is a major flare-up, most people are able to carry out the activities of daily living normally if the disease remains under control.

In more extreme or long-term cases, damage of the joints and bones can lead to fusion of the joints in the spine or other areas, which can subsequently affect walking and function. As spondyloarthrits is a chronic disease, long-term follow-up by a doctor is recommended.

See page 1 for causes and symptoms of spondyloarthritis.

See page 2 for types of spondyloarthritis-related conditions.

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