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Autoimmunity

Signs of Ankylosing Spondylitis Symptoms for Women

Most ankylosing spondylitis symptoms present the same for both men and women diagnosed with the condition. These symptoms can include back pain, neck pain, fatigue, and stiffness. But, sometimes ankylosing spondylitis symptoms are experienced differently by women. For women, this can often lead to a delayed or incorrect diagnosis.    

What is ankylosing spondylitis? 

Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) is a chronic inflammatory disease. AS affects the spine and joints, causing pain, stiffness, and limited range of motion. AS is a type of arthritis.

Symptoms of AS are generally worsened after periods of inactivity. AS pain is experienced primarily in the lower back and sacroiliac joints. However, AS can cause systemic symptoms and pain in other joints. 

Who gets ankylosing spondylitis? 

It’s estimated that 1% of the US population has spondyloarthritis, a group of conditions that includes ankylosing spondylitis. AS occurs more frequently in men than in women. 80% of people with AS first report experiencing symptoms before age 30. Only 5% will present with symptoms after 45 years of age. 

Is ankylosing spondylitis commonly misdiagnosed in women? 

Diagnosing ankylosing spondylitis in women often takes time. Women with AS can be misdiagnosed with other conditions more readily associated with women, like fibromyalgia or rheumatoid arthritis.

Women tend to seek health-related answers earlier. However, women also spend a longer average amount of time trying to find a correct diagnosis. The delay in diagnosis may be, in part, because AS symptoms present differently for women than men.

What are the signs of ankylosing spondylitis symptoms for women? 

The most common symptoms of ankylosing spondylitis in women include:

  • Pain in the spine, lower back, neck, hips, and knees
  • Increased Fatigue
  • Anemia
  • Stiffness after rest or sleep
  • Increased pain during the night

Women experience associated inflammatory, systemic symptoms with AS, including:

  • Inflammatory bowel disease: A chronic condition that affects the large intestine. Symptoms associated include cramping, abdominal pain, gas, bloating, diarrhea or constipation, or both. Commonly known inflammatory bowel diseases include Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis.
  • Psoriasis: A chronic inflammatory skin condition that can cause red, itchy scaly patches, commonly on the elbows, knees, trunk, and scalp.
  • Uveitis: A kind of eye inflammation that's painful and can cause sensitivity to bright light and blurred vision. 

Ankylosing spondylitis symptoms can go beyond the physical disease activity to impact one's mental health. Women often report higher instances of anxiety and depression associated with AS. The connection between anxiety and depression is not uncommon for autoimmune disorders in general. 

What are treatment options for ankylosing spondylitis symptoms in women? 

When it comes to treatment for ankylosing spondylitis, medications are available. However, staying active is one of the keys to managing ankylosing spondylitis.

Exercise helps keep your spine and joints limber and helps you stand straighter. The less you sit or lie down, the better you’ll feel. Physical therapy provides the chance to learn the correct movements for stretching, stability, posture, and pain management. 

Most importantly, communicate with your health care provider. Explain the full picture of symptoms you are experiencing so they are able to assess your situation fully. If you believe you may have ankylosing spondylitis, you will be your own best advocate in receiving the appropriate medical care.

Whether you have an ankylosing spondylitis diagnosis or are experiencing similar symptoms, you can also work with a Mymee health coach. Mymee’s Care Team partners with you to identify the unique triggers behind your symptom flare-ups.

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