Over many years, severe cases of AS can result in the formation of scars in the bundle of nerves at the spine’s base. This can lead to problems such as incontinence, lack of bowel control, and sexual dysfunction.
AS is more likely to affect your eye than any other organ in your body. Eye inflammation is a problem for about one in three people with AS, according to National Health Service U.K. The result is the pain of the eye, called iritis, which intensifies in bright light and can cause vision problems. You should report eye pain or vision problems to your doctor immediately. Blindness is a rare complication, but early treatment is required to help prevent permanent damage to your eye.
Integumentary system (skin, hair, nails)
In a rare number of cases, people with AS may also develop psoriasis. Psoriasis is an autoimmune skin condition that causes red, scaly patches of skin. These patches can appear anywhere on your body but are more common on the scalp, elbows, and knees. Sometimes, skin can blister or form lesions. Symptoms include itchiness, tenderness, burning, and stinging. Topical medications can ease discomfort.
Some people with AS may develop anemia, or general fatigue, caused by a deficiency of red blood cells. Rarely, inflammation caused by AS can affect the area where your aorta and heart connect. This can cause your aorta to enlarge. People with AS are also at increased risk of cardiovascular disease, which can lead to angina, stroke, or heart attack.
You can lower your risk by seeing your doctor regularly if you have high cholesterol, high blood pressure, or diabetes. Try to maintain a healthy weight through a healthy diet and regular exercise. Avoid the use of tobacco products.
A gene called HLA-B27 is present in many people with AS. This gene is found more often in Caucasians with AS than in those of other races. On the other hand, the gene can also be found in people who don’t have AS and never go on to develop the condition. A blood test, while not conclusive, can aid in the diagnosis of AS.
Only rarely does AS affect the lungs. Inflammation or fusing in joints where your ribs meet your spine can result in poor chest wall movement. You may have difficulty taking deep breaths.
A small number of people develop scarring or fibrosis at the top of their lungs. This can make it difficult to fight off respiratory infections and colds. People with AS shouldn’t smoke.
During a physical examination, your doctor can listen to your breathing to check for problems. Damage to the upper portion of your lungs can be seen on a chest X-ray.
Fatigue is a major problem reported by people with AS. This may be due to the efforts of fighting chronic inflammation. Sleep disrupted by pain may also be a contributing factor of fatigue.
Although AS doesn’t usually present a problem to childbearing, some medications used to treat AS may be harmful to an unborn baby. If you have AS and plan to have a baby, speak to your doctor about the potential harmful effects of your medications.
Healthy lifestyle choices will help keep you in overall good health.