Group and hospital hope lecture raises awareness of AS

EARLIER THE BETTER::AS, Ankylosing spondylitis, is an illness that affects the joints and manifests at an early age, which is why it is frequently misdiagnosed

By Alison Hsiao  /  Staff reporter

Mon, Mar 25, 2013 - Page 3

The Ankylosing Spondylitis Caring Society and Wan Fang Hospital yesterday held a lecture on the chronic inflammatory disease, hoping to raise public awareness of the illness and its early symptoms.

Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) is a type of chronic inflammatory arthritis that mainly affects the joints in the spine and the sacroiliac joints in the pelvis. It is caused by an abnormality in the immune system that can eventually cause the fusion of the spine.

Lin Hsiao-yi (林孝義), an allergy, immunology and rheumatology specialist at Taipei Veterans General Hospital, said that in one case, a patient had experienced pain in his knee joints and swollen tendons since he was 11, but did not receive proper treatment until the pain had spread to his heels, groin and waist, and he was finally diagnosed with AS.

“A lot of AS patients develop symptoms in their teenage years, while some begin suffering aches in their joints at an even younger age, a condition called juvenile arthritis. Medical treatments for AS is more effective in children and teenagers than it is in adults, which is why young people experiencing these symptoms should receive medical help as early as possible,” Lin said.

Lin added that since AS has been partly attributed to genetic predisposition, it is crucial for family members of anyone diagnosed with the disease to also undergo testing.

Liao Hsieh-tsung (廖顯宗), who works at Wan Fang Hospital and is also an allergy, immunology and rheumatology specialist, added that AS is more common in males than females, and the onset of symptoms typically occurs between the ages of 20 and 40.

“Patients tend to mistake symptoms like back stiffness in the early morning and back pain for sports injuries,” Liao said. “This error could cost them the chance of receiving early treatment and puts them at a higher risk of breaking their spine because there is a higher probability of vertebrae fusion.”