Treating back condition that can be easily missed

June 22, 2012 3:06:32 PM PDT
It's unusual for people between 15 and 35 to have back pain that goes on day after day.

If it's due to spinal arthritis called Ankylosing Spondylitis or AS, it can cripple someone if it's not treated.

More men than women have it, but the symptoms for both are a stiff and painful back.

Michael Smith is 61 and has had AS since age 30. It's affected his legs and feet, but it's mainly caused his spinal bones to fuse together. It started with back pain that didn't go away.

It's easy to miss the diagnosis. During those five years, his separate spinal bones fused.

Michael has to tilt his eyes up to see straight forward. Inflammation around the spine is the problem.

A simple blood test and x-rays can make the diagnosis. Standard anti-inflammation pills rarely work. But new drugs can have miraculous results.

"These have been able to control the di, to such a degree that we can interfere or even block the bony changes that used to be so debilitating," said Dr. Steven Meed.

Patients get the new drugs intravenously, and rheumatologists might choose these versions which patients inject themselves.

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