The medical name of Bekhterev’s disease is ankylosing spondylitis. It affects the spine, causing inflammation of the vertebrae and connective tissues. If left unchecked, this disease leads to adhesions and gradual disability accompanied by constant pain. Therefore, early diagnosis by a specialist and timely administration of proper treatment is essential.
Spondylitis mainly affects young men, but the number of cases in women is also increasing. Proper diagnosis is often delayed for years due to neglect of symptoms, both by patients and by parents and doctors. The first signs are pain and a feeling of stiffness in the legs. After a while, the discomfort disappears and life goes back to normal. Until next time…
Pain usually occurs around the age of 16, and this is the reason why it is attributed to accelerated growth. A visit to an orthopedist will determine that everything is fine with your knees and there is no problem. The bad thing is that most examinations end with a lecture on weight loss rather than a referral to a rheumatologist. However, it is imperative.
In order to be diagnosed, you must have a series of x-rays of your spine and sacroiliac joints, as well as a test for the HLA-B27 gene, which is active in over 90% of positive cases. Blood tests complete the information on the degree of inflammation.
Initial treatment may include non-steroidal drugs to relieve pain. Keep in mind, though, that there are already biological medicines that are very effective in combating a number of diseases, including rheumatic. If your doctor decides that you are suitable for such therapy, they will draw up your documents so that you can appear before an expert commission. A team of specialists will prescribe an appropriate biological medicine and determine the frequency of its application. It will keep inflammatory processes under control and may even lead to a state of remission. The medicine is expensive, but is provided by the health insurance fund free of charge. The protocols are renewed every 6 months, and you should get used to the fact that the visits to your rheumatologist should be at least 2-3 times a year.
Overcoming the shock of the diagnosis takes time. It is very important to realize that it does not mean that you are doomed. Many people suffering from the disease have never been diagnosed or it happens when they are already elderly. There are some changes in their physique, but they have lived a full life, started families, worked hard. A positive outlook is very important. It will allow you to go on with your life the way you planned it before the diagnosis.
It is very important to reduce your weight in order to relieve stress on the joints. Start eating healthy. Forget about cigarettes and drink alcohol mainly on occasion. Maintain an active lifestyle, do physical activities, do exercises that benefit your joints.
Swimming makes a big difference and is among the most recommended activities for people with Bekhterev’s disease. Avoid positions that strain the spine or keep it in the wrong position for a long time. It is extremely important to have a quality orthopedic mattress that keeps the body in the correct position during sleep. A soft bed is not good for you. The pillow should also be carefully selected. It shouldn’t be very high, and it should be neither soft, nor very hard – it will keep your neck straight at night. Visit regularly sanatoriums with mineral water that are suitable for your condition.
When life gives you lemons, make lemonade! Yes, it would be great if this did not happen to you, but not everything is as we wish it would be. It is important to take timely actions, as well as to find a good rheumatologist that you can rely on. And don’t give up!