Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) is a chronic inflammatory condition that mostly affects the spine, though it can also affect joints too. AS can cause the vertebrae to fuse together, leading to a rigid and hunched posture, though this isn’t really an early sign of AS.
Ankylosing spondylitis symptoms are typically stiffness and back pain – these are generally the early warning signs to help with diagnosis, too. Over time, the condition can affect other joints and even organs like the eyes, heart, and lungs. The onset usually occurs in late adolescence or early adulthood, and it tends to be more common in men than women.
Treatments for Ankylosing Spondylitis
Treatment for AS aims to manage symptoms and slow down the progression of the disease. Unfortunately, there is no cure right now besides managing the symptoms. Here are some common approaches to do that:
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are often the first line of treatment to manage pain and inflammation, for example ibruprofen. In more severe cases, biologic medications like TNF inhibitors may be prescribed. These are a direct and immediate way to reduce inflammation.
Regular exercise and physical therapy can help maintain spinal flexibility and posture. A physiotherapist can guide you through specific exercises tailored to your condition, though try to find one with good experience of treating AS patients.
In extreme cases where the spine has fused in a debilitating manner, surgical intervention like spinal osteotomy may be considered. However, the three treatments mentioned tend to be done in order (though they’re not mutually exclusive), meaning that medication is an immediate step, while surgery is a last-call.
Is It Considered a Disability in Australia?
In Australia, ankylosing spondylitis can be considered a disability under the Disability Discrimination Act 1992. This legislation protects individuals from discrimination based on their disability in various areas such as employment, education, and access to public spaces. However, the classification as a disability can depend on the severity of the condition and its impact on your daily life.
Insurance and Pension
Some health insurance plans may cover treatments for AS, including medication and physical therapy. It’s crucial to review your policy to understand what is covered. You may be eligible for the Disability Support Pension if the condition severely limits your ability to work.
While AS can be a debilitating condition, advancements in treatment options have improved the quality of life for many individuals. From a medical standpoint, early diagnosis and treatment are crucial for managing symptoms effectively. Legally, protections are in place to prevent discrimination based on this condition. However, societal awareness and understanding of AS as a disability may still be lacking, which calls for increased advocacy and education.
Ankylosing spondylitis can significantly impact a person’s quality of life and may be considered a disability in Australia depending on its severity. Treatment options are available to manage symptoms, and legal frameworks exist to protect against discrimination. Understanding your rights and treatment options is essential for navigating life with this condition.
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