Also called Marie-StrÃ¼mpell disease, ankylosing spondylitis is a chronic and progressive form of arthritis where the bones of the spine are inflamed and fuse together. It affects men more than women and usually starts when the patient is in their late teens or twenties. The early symptoms are an ache in the lower back sometimes accompanied by sciatica. Patients also suffer early morning stiffness in the spine. At first, they just believe they are suffering from a backache. As the disease progresses, the pain moves from the lower back to the thoracic spine and up to the neck. The pain may also spread to the arms, legs, feet, and hands. As the spine continues to stiffen, the patient may adopt a 'bent forward' posture. Their muscles may also become stiff, and they may suffer weight loss and fatigue. Another symptom of ankylosing spondylitis is iritis, or red and sore eyes.
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