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Why I Trust Biologics to Treat My Ankylosing Spondylitis

Ankylosing spondylitis/axial spondyloarthritis (AS/AxSpA) is a chronic inflammatory disease that primarily affects the spine. It can cause severe pain and stiffness in the joints, leading to a significant decrease in quality of life. And boy is it good at that! I can count on my arthritic fingers and toes all the ways AxSpA has affected my life’s quality. And, I can easily say, after years of non-treatment, I got to the point of needing a serious intervention.

This is why I chose to start treating with Biologics

What are biologics?

Biologic drugs work by targeting specific proteins that trigger inflammation, the main cause of AS symptoms. By blocking these proteins, biologics can significantly reduce inflammation and alleviate pain and stiffness.1 TNF-Alpha is the most common inflammation triggering protein which is why doctors usually start with “TNF Blockers” (Humira, Enbrel, Remicade).1 Other biologics target the cytokines IL-17 (Cosentyx, Taltz) and IL-23 (Rinvoq, Skyrizi).1

Which biologic is best for you? At this point, there is no 100% accurate test. It’s going to be a lot of trial and error.

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Taking a shot (get it?)

When I finally started seeking treatment, as for most AxSpA patients, I was required to start with treatments that were lackluster at best. My rheumatologist told me to be patient, and on our next visit, she would start the process of getting me approved for a biologic.

The most prominent problem I was having due to my AxSpA at the time was that I lost the ability to turn my head to the left (and I wasn’t too good on my right either). This made driving difficult and dangerous because I could not check my blind spot. For almost a year I was driving impaired, and I knew it was only a matter of time until I merged into someone.

Shortly after starting my first biologic, my cervical spine loosened and I was able to turn my head again. Inflammation and pain in my lower spine and knees also improved. I was seeing results that NSAIDs and physical therapy could not give me.

A note

While biologics have proven to be highly effective, it's important to note that they are not a one-size-fits-all solution. The choice of biologic and the duration of treatment will depend on the individual patient's disease severity, response to other treatments, and overall health. As with any medication, biologics can also have potential side effects, so careful monitoring is essential.1

The dreaded side effects

While biologics have proven to be highly effective, some patients may choose not to use them due to potential side effects and risks. These drugs are very powerful, but they also suppress the immune system, which means you're more vulnerable to other more common diseases.1 This increased susceptibility to infections is a significant concern, and people who take biologics are more likely to get infections such as upper respiratory infections, pneumonia, urinary tract infections, and skin infections.1

Another side effect that people fear is lymphoma, which is listed in the ads on TV for the various biologics. While they doesn’t want me quoting them to make the legal department happy, my rheumatologists have assured me, lymphoma is not very likely. It is mentioned because technically, it can, not that it will.1

I put my trust in biologics

Despite these considerations, the benefits of biologic therapy for AS is clear. By effectively controlling inflammation and alleviating symptoms, biologics significantly improved my quality of life and allowed me to lead a more normal life. As our understanding of these conditions continues to grow, it's likely that biologic therapies will play an increasingly important role in the treatment of AS.1

Once again, what works for one person might not work for another. AxSpA is a dynamic condition with several causes, effects, and treatments. Each patient needs to do what works best for them.

In my case, no other treatment has had the same benefits of biologics. I have gone through the process of trial and error going from TNF Blockers, to IL-17 and IL-23 suppressors. Some have worked great, some have worked a little, but in any case biologics work for me.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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