Ankylosing spondylitis comes under the category of arthritis, but this disease entails more than just that.(1,2) Ankylosing Spondylitis is a persisting, inflammatory medical condition of the joints of the spine, knees, hips and shoulders.(2) Other symptoms associated with ankylosing spondylitis are eye pain, fatigue and lung or heart problems.(3)
Can You Live A Normal Life With Ankylosing Spondylitis?
Now coming to the question of whether you can live a normal life with ankylosing spondylitis….. the answer is YES you can, if you follow your doctor’s instructions and take the necessary precautions. Despite the involvement of almost the entire body in Ankylosing spondylitis, a person equipped with will power can live a normal life by taking certain precautions.
Things to Incorporate to Live a Normal Life with Ankylosing Spondylitis
A Healthy Diet & Weight
It is crucial to maintain healthy weight when suffering from ankylosing spondylitis; as the extra weight puts strain on the joints thus exacerbating Ankylosing spondylitis. A healthy weight can be achieved by following a healthy diet; and exercise which will also benefit you in mobility of the spine.
Having the Right Healthcare Team
It is important to have an experienced healthcare team when suffering from ankylosing spondylitis. The ideal healthcare team should be experienced in dealing with ankylosing spondylitis and includes a rheumatologist, which is a physician specializing in diseases of the muscles and joints. Even more important is to consult a rheumatologist who is experienced in treating patients suffering from ankylosing spondylitis.
When suffering from ankylosing spondylitis, it is important to not isolate oneself and try to mingle with others as much as possible. Being more social will help tremendously in dealing with ankylosing spondylitis, as you are less likely to brood and get stressed about Ankylosing Spondylitis. There are many non-profit groups, such as Spondylitis Association of America where a person suffering from Ankylosing Spondylitis can connect with other patients who are managing this condition successfully. These ankylosing spondylitis support groups are available in-person and online as well. The sharing of the experience with AS with other patients gives immense emotional strength as well as is beneficial by giving practical information regarding Ankylosing Spondylitis.
Exercise is an important aspect of the treatment plan of ankylosing spondylitis. A physical therapist or the physician is the best person to guide with regards to exercise to increase the patient’s strength, mobility and flexibility. Improving the posture with the help of exercises benefit in cutting down the long-term complications of ankylosing spondylitis.
Some of the mild exercises that can be performed and can be beneficial to patients suffering from ankylosing spondylitis include swimming and walking.
One of the common symptoms of Ankylosing Spondylitis is fatigue, which can increase if the patient does not get sufficient sleep.(5) So, it is important to practice good sleep hygiene and maintain proper posture when sleeping. A good night’s rest goes a long way in dealing with Ankylosing Spondylitis and living a normal life with ankylosing spondylitis.
It is Important to be Prepared for Ankylosing Spondylitis Flare Ups
People suffering from chronic diseases including ankylosing spondylitis tend to experience worsening or flaring up of their symptoms, especially joint pain or back pain that can restrict functioning. So, one has to be prepared and have a proper plan to deal with Ankylosing Spondylitis flare-ups to avoid any undue panic.
For dealing with any future flares of ankylosing spondylitis, one should have a right list of medications that needs to be taken to reduce the pain from ankylosing spondylitis. The patient should also be aware of the proper dosage to take, the maximum dosage and the gap between two dosages of the Ankylosing Spondylitis medicine. Along with this, one should be also aware of the side effects from the Ankylosing Spondylitis medication to look out for.
The Ankylosing Spondylitis plan should have reminders regarding the usage of cold and hot packs on the region of pain, along with the stretches and exercises that one should perform/ avoid when going through an ankylosing spondylitis flare.
Patients suffering from ankylosing spondylitis should also plan their daily chores ahead and should also ask assistance from family member or a friend when having an Ankylosing Spondylitis flare up.
Following all the above steps can help the patient in living a normal life with ankylosing spondylitis.
Things That Will Prevent a Patient with Ankylosing Spondylitis from Living a Normal Life
Emotional Upheaval(6): A person suffering from ankylosing spondylitis also suffers from emotional and psychological issues, such as fear, feelings of helplessness, sadness and anxiety. One should encourage and support the patient and understand that these feelings are normal and there are ways to deal with them.
However, if the patient is unable to cope up with the negative feelings then professional help should be sought to deal with these issues. Depression tends to be more common in patients suffering from ankylosing spondylitis and it needs treatment with counseling or medicines.(7)
Quit Smoking (8, 9): Research also shows that smoking worsens inflammation and pain caused by ankylosing spondylitis.(8) So, it is important for patients suffering from ankylosing spondylitis to quit smoking completely. Smoking also leads to decrease in functioning of everyday life and also gives a poor quality of life. Smoking when suffering from ankylosing spondylitis also increases the risk for complications, such as lung and heart problems.
Excessive Alcohol Consumption(9): According to studies, excessive alcohol consumption can worsen the symptoms of ankylosing spondylitis. It is important to limit alcohol when suffering from Ankylosing Spondylitis or any other disease for that matter. Cutting down on alcohol will also benefit in the overall health of the patient.
So, following the above mentioned strategies in coping with ankylosing spondylitis help a patient a lot to live a normal life even with this disease. However, it is also important to acknowledge the challenges that ankylosing spondylitis presents. These challenges can be easily managed by some patients, while others can have difficulty in dealing with them. However, being resilient pays in the long run and adapting to these changes with the support of your healthcare team, friends and family will definitely give you the strength and the will power to live a normal life with ankylosing spondylitis.
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