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Learn about spondylitis from the experts at Laser Spine Institute in Philadelphia

How do you define spondylitis?

The term spondylitis can actually be a little misleading. Rather than a condition, spondylitis is the all-inclusive term used to describe a number of arthritis-based conditions that affect the spine and other joints. The most well-known type of spondylitis is ankylosing spondylitis; other diseases under the spondylitis category include psoriatic arthritis, reactive arthritis and juvenile spondyloarthritis. Though most patients with ankylosing spondylitis only experience pain, stiffness and inflammation in the facet joints of the spine, if left untreated, spondylitis can damage the vertebrae to the point where they fuse together, causing severe stiffness, spinal deformity and breathing difficulties.

How is a spondylitis diagnosis obtained?

The only way to get a definitive spondylitis diagnosis is to visit a physician who is well-versed in the arthritis-based conditions that fall under the spondylitis umbrella. He or she will first talk to you about your medical history and listen to you describe your symptoms. Most often, this will be followed by a physical exam and some sort of medical imaging test, like an X-ray, CT scan or MRI.

Why does spondylitis occur?

In addition to aging, genetics are believed to play a large role in the development of spondylitis. Those with a family history of the condition and those who have the HLA-B27 gene have a higher risk for developing spondylitis. There are a handful of risk factors that appear to trigger spondylitis in those with the HLA-B27 gene including gastrointestinal infections and the presence of other genetic markers.

What symptoms does spondylitis cause?

The symptoms of spondylitis can vary based on the specific condition an individual has. The most common symptoms, however, include chronic pain, stiffness, limited range of motion and abnormal curvature of the spine. Additional symptoms can include fatigue, fever, loss of appetite and inflammation in the eyes.

What are some common treatments for spondylitis?

Although spondylitis is not currently curable, most patients find sufficient relief through a regimen of conservative treatment, which may consist of pain medication, epidural steroid injections, physical therapy, exercise and stretching. Patients should keep their physicians informed of any new or worsening symptoms as they undergo treatment so that any necessary adjustments can be made.

Is surgery an option for spondylitis?

Because many patients are able to find relief through conservative treatment, surgery is only recommended for spondylitis if several weeks or months are insufficient in managing a patient’s symptoms. Although Laser Spine Institute does not treat ankylosing spondylitis, our Patient Empowerment Consultants can help patients with this condition find treatment options. If you are in Philadelphia, PA, and would like to take the first step to reclaiming your life from spondylitis, contact Laser Spine Institute today.