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  • Ankylosing Spondylitis is a form of arthritis that causes stiffness, inflammation, and pain. It has long been thought of as a disease that is more prevalent in men, but a recent study of U.S. military personnel is testing that theory, as it found that among more than 700,000 military service members, men’s incidence rate was actually slightly lower than that of women. 


    Like many other autoimmune diseases, Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS)can run in families, and a diagnosis puts you at greater risk for other autoimmune conditions, including psoriasis and inflammatory disease. Though the condition cannot be cured, our New Jersey Spine care practice is able to help patients diagnosed with AS to manage their symptoms through a combination of medication, physical therapy, and exercises. There are also surgical options available for those with severe cases. As always, the first step to treatment is diagnosis. 


    When patients seek diagnosis of their symptoms, their physicians go through a process known as a differential diagnosis. During differential diagnosis, the doctor considers all of the possible conditions that could be causing the symptoms and determines which is most likely. With earlier studies of AS showing that men were three times more likely to have AS than women, it may have taken longer for a woman presenting with AS symptoms to have been correctly diagnosed This is why this most recent AS study is so important. 


    Michael H. Weisman, MD, of the Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles and his colleagues found that in a retrospective study that included more than 700,000 military service members, only 26.53 men per 100,000 had AS, while for women the incidence was 31.36 per 100,000. The difference in considered nonsignificant, but is a far cry from the study that had been conducted in Olmsted County in Minnesota from 1980 to 2009, from which the earlier male-dominant conclusions had been drawn. The more recent study found that the greatest difference in incidence between the sexes was in those aged 24 and younger: for that group the women’s incidence was 21.43 per 100,000 compared to 11.11 peer 100,000 men. Almost all of those positively diagnosed reported experiencing lower back pain, and 83.56% had pursued evaluation via either X-Ray or MRI. The study also found that white patients were significantly more likely to have as than Black patients. 


    In trying to explain the big difference between the conclusions of the recent study and those of the earlier study, the researchers suggested that the earlier study had only used X-rays to indicate sacroiliac changes, while in the more recent study almost two thirds of patients had been diagnosed using MRI, which provides much clearer indication of disease state. There is also a chance that because the recent study involved a military population, the subjects had free healthcare available to them at the age when symptoms first appear, making it more likely that they would seek diagnosis and care. 


    Whatever the reason, the results of the study have made a big difference in our understanding of this troubling condition. If you are experiencing pain or discomfort in your spine, please contact our New Jersey spine pain specialty practice today to schedule a consultation.


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