Axial spondyloarthritis (axSpA) is often diagnosed in a person’s early twenties. Although, signs and symptoms can appear earlier. Being diagnosed with a chronic illness can be confronting. However, research has given us a much better understanding of the disease. This has led to developments in the diagnosis and management of axSpA. Nowadays, people diagnosed axSpA have a much better prognosis.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can detect changes in the spine and sacroiliac joints in earlier stages of the disease. This makes it possible to receive an earlier diagnosis. An earlier diagnosis means you can start treatment sooner and reduce the risk of complications.
Newer therapies, like biologic disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (bDMARDS) have shown to be effective in controlling inflammatory arthritis, like axSpA. bDMARDS work by blocking certain substances in the immune system to reduce inflammation and pain. bDMARDs can reduce symptoms and slow disease progression. However, not everyone with axSpA will require treatment with bDMARDs. A rheumatologist will assess you and decide your best course of treatment. A person with axSpA will initially be prescribed non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and an appropriate exercise program.
Early treatment of axSpA is important to reduce the risk of damage and prevent complications. If left untreated axSpA can cause irreversible joint damage. axSpA is a progressive disease, meaning that the longer a person lives with the condition the higher the risk of complications. People with well controlled axSpA can usually follow general guidelines for a healthy lifestyle, including regular exercise and maintaining a healthy diet. However, it is important to remember that living with axSpA is not a linear pathway and there will be times when your symptoms are under control and times when they flare.