Suffering from low back pain may be a sign that you have an incurable disease-doctors have urged people to see their GP.
Back pain is a common problem among adults, and it has plagued some people for many years.
According to the CreakyJoints organization, approximately 6% of chronic pain patients will eventually be diagnosed with axial spondyloarthritis, or axial SpA for short.
It is estimated that 1 in 200 adults in the UK suffers from axial SpA.
But according to the National Axial Spondyl Arthritis (NASS) charity organization, there is a general lack of awareness.
This condition often starts in the late teens and early 20s, but it takes an average of 8.5 years to be diagnosed.
If left untreated, it can cause the vertebrae in the spine to fuse together, making daily activities such as wearing socks too painful.
In the worst case, new bone will form in the body.
Pain usually first occurs when someone is in their 20s, and when they build relationships and careers, they are still struggling with symptoms
Although axial SpA can be called “just arthritis”, the impact on patients is staggering because they have accepted the incurable progressive disease.
The focus of treatment is to relieve the patient’s pain, not to prevent the progression of the disease.
NASS Medical Advisor Dr. Raj Sengupta told the Daily Mail: “As a rheumatologist, I have seen patients with back pain in the clinic for many years. The cause has been attributed to sports injuries or work, which is heartbreaking.
“I see up to five such patients every week.
“This kind of pain usually first occurs when a person is in their 20s. When they build relationships and careers, they have been struggling with symptoms. This can cause mental health problems and cause more damage to their spine. “
This condition can affect the joints of the spine and cause pain in the lower back and hips.
But another common feature of the disease is hip pain similar to sciatica, which may lead to misdiagnosis.
Is the back pain or is it more serious?
Everyone has back pain from time to time.
However, if you have the following back pains, you may have axial SpA:
- Started before the age of 45
- Lasts for at least three months (can be opened or closed)
- Feel worse at night, usually in the middle of the night
- Activities and sports will improve, rest will worsen
- Good response to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen
- Often accompanied by “alternative hip pain”
- Spine flexibility is often restricted, so severe that people cannot perform daily activities
Dr. Sengupta is also a rheumatology consultant at the Royal National Rheumatology Hospital in Bath. He said: “For axial SpA, the main joints involved are the sacroiliac joints located above the hip. Inflammation of these joints is one of the main functions.
“The hip pain radiates from the joints and can alternate from one side to the other-which is a typical sign of axial SpA-or just stay on one or both sides.
“The problem with hip pain is that it is often confused with sciatica, which is a common disease caused by stimulation of one of the two sciatic nerves from the spinal cord.
“Sciatica causes hip pain and tingling and radiates down from the legs to the feet, but for axial SpA, if you have hip pain, it will not radiate down the legs and through the knees.
“Some people have been told that they have sciatica, but they actually have sacroiliitis caused by axial SpA.”
Axial SpA can be divided into two conditions; non-radiological spondylitis and ankylosing spondylitis.
The main difference is that non-radiological spondylitis is often an early stage of the disease and cannot be seen on X-rays.
This also explains why it may take years to get a diagnosis, because there is no obvious damage on the X-ray before the disease worsens to ankylosing spondylitis.
Some people with non-radiological spondylitis have obvious inflammation on MRI, which can be diagnosed early.
Blood tests can also show whether there are high levels of inflammation markers or a gene called HLA-B27, which is seen in approximately 80% of patients with axial SpA.
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