Axial Spondyloarthritis FAQs

What is axial spondyloarthritis?
What causes axial spondyloarthritis?
What are the types of axial spondyloarthritis?
How is axial spondyloarthritis diagnosed?
How is AxSpA treated?
How can I manage life with AxSpA?

What is axial spondyloarthritis?

Axial spondyloarthritis (AxSpA) is a type of inflammatory arthritis that affects the spine and hips. Although it mainly affects the spine and hips which cause lower back pain & stiffness, it can also affect the eyes, digestive system, and cause pain across the body. The inflammation that AxSpA causes eventually lead the spine to change formation, becoming stiff and brittle.

What causes AxSpA?

While there is no one cause for AxSpA, there is a strong genetic component to the condition, and with spondyloarthritis as a whole. There are at least 30 genes that are linked to spondyloarthritis. Arguably, the most well-known gene is the HLA-B27 gene, which can be tested for in a lab. Other genetic factors that have been identified include ERAP 1, IL-12, IL-17, and IL-23.

What are the types of AxSpA?

"Spondyloarthritis" is a broad term that describes inflammatory conditions involving the joints and places where ligaments or tendons attach to the bone. For example, peripheral spondyloarthritis is one type of spondyloarthritis that can affect the entire body. However, AxSpA is broken down into 2 types:

  1. Radiographic axial spondyloarthritis, also called ankylosing spondylitis. R-AxSpA means that you've shown evidence of spine and SI joint inflammation on your imaging tests.
  2. Non-radiographic axial spondyloarthritis. Non-radiographic AxSpA is when you have many of the symptoms of AxSpA, but no evidence of changes showing on your imaging tests.

How is AxSpA diagnosed?

Your doctor will perform a physical exam and ask you about your symptom history. You may also get blood tests and imaging tests, such as MRI or x-ray. The specialist that can diagnose and treat AxSpA is called a rheumatologist. An AxSpA diagnosis is often not straightforward and can take many years. AxSpA symptoms can be confusing, and much is still being learned about the disease.

How is AxSpA treated?

The main goal of AxSpA treatment is to reduce inflammation and slow joint damage. Primarily this is done through using NSAIDS, which can reduce inflammation and pain in the body. It may also be treated using biologics, which work within your immune system to reduce inflammation. Many people also find relief through daily exercise such as yoga, physical therapy, and other at-home remedies or alternative remedies.

How can I manage life with AxSpA?

Living with a chronic condition like AxSpA impacts many areas of a person’s life. While each person with AxSpA has their own unique experience, and the severity and progression of AxSpA varies widely from person to person. AxSpA can affect a person’s life dramatically. Doing things like taking your medication, eating healthy food, staying active, quitting smoking, and managing stress can all help AS symptoms.

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