SYMPTOMS AND CAUSES OF AS AND NR-AXSPA
Early symptoms of AS and nr-axSpA
The first symptoms of ankylosing spondylitis (AS) and non-radiographic spondyloarthritis (nr-axSpA) are usually pain and stiffness in the lower back and buttocks. However, sometimes, the pain may start in the neck rather than the back, especially in women.
Here are some other AS and nr-axSpA facts:
- Pain and stiffness may only be felt on 1 side or on alternate sides.
- Usually, symptoms appear gradually, over a few weeks or months and can come and go (or "flare up"), eventually becoming persistent, chronic pain on both sides.
- AS and nr-axSpA and the onset of symptoms vary from person to person.
Common AS and nr-axSpA symptoms
The pain AS causes lasts longer than 3 months, and you might notice the stiffness and pain are worse after you’ve been resting or sitting.
- Pain feels worse when resting
- Pain is alleviated when moving
- Back feels stiff upon awakening
If any of these symptoms sound familiar, talk to your doctor. Over time, AS and nr-axSpA can start to worsen. In some cases, nr-axSpA progresses to AS. When AS progresses, it can restrict spinal movement and, in more severe cases, cause fusing of the spine.
Other symptoms may include:
- Fatigue The body uses energy to fight the inflammation of AS, and nighttime symptoms may affect sleep, which can contribute to fatigue.
- Peripheral joint pain In a minority of individuals, pain does not start in the lower back, or even the neck, but in a peripheral joint such as the hip, ankle, elbow, knee, heel, or shoulder.
- Loss of appetite In early stages of AS, individuals can experience loss of appetite.
- Back pain and stiffness with reduced mobility Although there is pain and stiffness, nr-axSpA is undetectable on an X-ray. Damage from AS is visible on an X-ray.
- Rigid spine, neck, or rib cage In advanced and/or severe cases of AS, inflammation can cause the bones of the spine, neck, or rib cage to fuse together. If bones in the rib cage fuse together, it can make breathing more difficult.
WHILE AS AND NR-AXSPA HAVE SIMILAR SYMPTOMS, THERE ARE A FEW DIFFERENCES:
People with AS may be more likely to have:
- Sacroiliac joint erosions
- Sacroiliac joint fatty lesions
People with nr-axSpA may be more likely to have:
- Joint pain in other areas of the body beyond the spine
- Swelling of the fingers or toes (dactylitis)
- Swelling of connective tissues (enthesitis)