Ankylosing Spondylitis in Women vs Men
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Ankylosing Spondylitis in Women vs. Men

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  • Ankylosing Spondylitis and Your Gender

    Ankylosing Spondylitis and Your Gender

    Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) is a form of arthritis. It’s considered a chronic inflammatory disease that affects your spine. Also called rheumatoid spondylitis, AS limits your range of motion and causes pain.

    While the condition is most prevalent in men, women aren’t immune to the disease. However, men and women are likely to experience different symptoms, which can affect diagnosis and treatment methods.

  • Causes and Primary Symptoms

    Causes and Primary Symptoms

    AS occurs when the spinal disks (vertebrae) and the joints that connect the spine to the pelvis become inflamed. Over time, this swelling causes severe problems within the back.

    At first, you may experience chronic back pain or overall stiffness. As the spondylitis progresses, the pain can become debilitating and cause a reduced range of motion. Extreme fatigue is also a common symptom in both men and women.

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  • Genetic Predisposition

    Genetic Predisposition

    Many medical professionals believe that rheumatoid spondylitis is genetic. In fact, your predisposition to the disease may boil down to the HLA-B27 gene. While having this gene can increase your risk for developing AS, it doesn’t mean that all men and women with HLA-B27 will have this form of arthritis.

  • Age

    Age

    Arthritis is often considered a disease that comes about with age. But AS commonly occurs in younger people, or those between the ages of 17 to 45

    Some patients are diagnosed as early as adolescence. The age of onset and genetic risk factors are about the same in both men and women.

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  • Severity of Pain

    Severity of Pain

    While the primary symptoms of AS are similar between sexes, symptoms tend to be more severe in male patients. But this doesn’t mean that AS-related pain is exclusive to men. 

    Women are more likely to have mild pain at first, since the progression is slower in women. In fact, women may mistake the pain for fibromyalgia at first and receive an incorrect diagnosis.

  • Pain Location

    Pain Location

    Aside from differences in the severity of pain, men and women may also experience pain in different parts of the body. Men are most prone to pain in the spine and lower back. Women usually have pain located in the neck, hips, and knees. These differences are yet another reason why men have an easier time obtaining an AS diagnosis.

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  • Reproductive Health Concerns

    Reproductive Health Concerns

    Pain and decreased mobility are huge concerns with AS. Another potential concern is the fact that AS strikes men and women during their peak reproductive years. It can decrease sperm count in men, making it more difficult to conceive.   

    Women who are pregnant or who are trying to conceive should also work with their doctors to obtain the right medications. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen, often help relieve pain from AS but can cause harm to your unborn child.

  • Mental Health

    Mental Health

    Given the severe symptoms of AS, it’s no surprise that the disease can affect your mental health. Studies have found that depression is common in AS patients. 

    Male patients may acknowledge problems with depression more openly than females. Some women may inaccurately attribute mental health issues to hormones.

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  • Seeking Help

    Seeking Help

    There’s currently no cure for AS, but early detection and treatment can help alleviate pain and any related issues in both men and women. Understanding the differences in symptoms can help patients of both genders seek medical help in a more timely fashion. If you feel something isn’t right, don’t be afraid to talk to your doctor.

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