Treating Health Conditions Related to Ankylosing Spondylitis

Having ankylosing spondylitis can increase your likelihood of developing related conditions and other complications. Learn how this can affect your treatment.

Everydayhealth.com—May 27, 2014

Living with the pain and inflammation of ankylosing spondylitis (AS) can be challenging enough, but you might also be dealing with other health issues. Some conditions like psoriasis and inflammatory bowel diseases may be related to ankylosing spondylitis, while other health problems can be complications of the AS itself. But any other health conditions you have can affect the way your doctor approaches your ankylosing spondylitis treatment plan.

Ankylosing Spondylitis and Psoriasis
"Ankylosing spondylitis is one type of spondyloarthritis, meaning a condition that inflames places in the body where ligaments meet bones. Spondyloarthritis conditions all have a tendency to have the same genetic marker," says Theodore Fields, MD, a professor of clinical medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College and the director of the rheumatology faculty practice plan at Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City. People with psoriasis may also develop psoriatic arthritis, another type of spondyloarthritis with symptoms similar to AS.

Therefore, if you have ankylosing spondylitis, Dr. Fields recommends asking your doctor to examine you for psoriasis, which is characterized by red, itchy, scaly patches on the skin. If you are also diagnosed with psoriasis and develop back, neck, or joint pain, you should also be checked for psoriatic arthritis. Psoriasis may be treated with topical medications, phototherapy, systemic treatment, or biologic therapy — or a combination approach.

Ankylosing Spondylitis and Fibromyalgia
Although their symptoms can be similar, ankylosing spondylitis and fibromyalgia are different conditions. Fibromyalgia involves pain of the muscles and soft tissues such as ligaments and tendons, and doesn't show evidence of inflammation. AS, on the other hand, involves significant inflammation. It also affects the spine and other joints at times.

More research is needed to determine if a relationship exists between ankylosing spondylitis and fibromyalgia. So far no specific genetic marker has been established for fibromyalgia. This means that currently it's not possible to connect the conditions genetically. However, one possible link between AS and fibromyalgia is sleep. "Lack of sleep seems to significantly contribute to fibromyalgia's development and worsening," Fields says. "Any condition that causes pain, such as ankylosing spondylitis, can interfere with sleep and can predispose you to fibromyalgia." Fibromyalgia may be treated with pain management drugs or antidepressants.

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