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Caring for Someone With Axial Spondyloarthritis

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: March 2023

Caring for a loved one with axial spondyloarthritis (axSpA) can be rewarding, but it comes with challenges too. AxSpA is a chronic inflammatory arthritis that mainly affects the spine and lower body joints, making them sore and stiff. This may impact how well people with the condition can move around.1

For people taking care of someone with axSpA, it helps to learn more about the disease. This includes understanding its symptoms, how to provide comfort without making the pain worse, and how the condition is treated. The more you know about axSpA, the better care and support you can provide.1

What is axial spondyloarthritis?

AxSpA is a chronic and painful inflammatory condition that primarily affects the spine and other joints. It may cause joint pain, stiffness, and inflammation in areas such as the:1

  • Lower back
  • Hips
  • Legs
  • Feet
  • Arms
  • Shoulders

The cause of axSpA is unknown, but it could be linked to genes, a person's environment, or a combination of both. There are several tests doctors can use to diagnose the condition, including imaging scans such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and X-rays.2

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Treatment typically includes medicines, physical therapy, and certain lifestyle changes. People with axSpA must work closely with their doctor to find a treatment plan that works for them.2

How axSpA affects daily living

Imagine living with constant pain, stiffness, and inflammation in your back and joints that can make it difficult to do simple everyday tasks. When you have severe axSpA, it can be hard to get out of bed in the morning or walk across the room without feeling pain or discomfort. Trying to exercise can be painful and exhausting, making it hard to stick with an exercise routine.3

Even activities like grocery shopping can be overwhelming due to the strain they put on your body. Also, you might find it difficult to concentrate at work or school because of the increased fatigue that comes with axSpA. This is a snapshot of one person with axSpA, but the condition affects everyone differently.3

Some people living with axSpA have to make changes to their daily routines. They learn how to manage disease flares so that they do not get worse. Caregivers can play an essential role in helping their loved ones manage and cope with their symptoms.1,2

How to help someone with axSpA

If you know someone with axSpA, you might be wondering how you can help them. First, you can simply listen and offer support during difficult times. Be understanding about their need to miss work, school, or social events due to their condition. Give them space to talk about how they feel. It might be hard for them to cope with the pain and fatigue caused by axSpA.1,2,4

Also, offer help with tasks like grocery shopping or house cleaning, as these can become difficult activities as axSpA progresses. Finally, encourage your loved one to keep up with their doctor's orders, whether it is taking medicine or getting physical therapy. These things will help your loved one manage their condition and might improve their quality of life.1,2,4

Caregiver stress

Remember that your health and well-being are important as well. If you are feeling overwhelmed, do not hesitate to reach out to family and friends or seek professional help. Caregiving is a big responsibility. It can take a toll on your mental and physical health. Taking care of yourself is just as important as caring for your loved one.1,4

With the proper support, people living with axSpA can lead active, fulfilling lives despite the challenges of the condition. Taking a proactive approach and providing tailored care for your loved one can make a big difference in their life. Together, you and your loved one can manage the condition and navigate everyday life with axSpA.1