An estimated 540 million people worldwide suffer from lower back pain. When the pain becomes chronic, a rheumatic illness such as Bechterew’s disease may be the cause.
Bechterew’s disease, also known as ankylosing spondylitis (AS), is a chronic inflammatory rheumatic disease that primarily affects the spinal column. Inflammatory back pain is characterized by intense pain in the second half of the night, possible morning stiffness, and improvement with rising and movement. The disease mostly occurs between puberty and the age of 40.
Bechterew’s disease is an autoimmune disease. It attacks the body’s own immune system. In addition to musculoskeletal systems, patients with Bechterew’s disease can also suffer from inflammation of the eye, skin and/or chronic inflammatory intestinal disease.
There is no cure for Bechterew’s disease, but an early detection and therapy can have a positive impact on the course of the disease. For example, physiotherapy helps to prevent consequential damages and limited mobility. However, the disease often goes undetected for a long time due to unspecific symptoms.
In addition to a physical examination and imaging (x-ray and magnetic resonance tomography), an important element in the diagnosis of Bechterew’s disease is to check the blood for HLA-B27. Patients with Bechterew’s disease frequently have a specific genetic trait, the HLA-B27 gene. The hereditary factor HLA-B27 performs regulatory tasks in the immune system and is found in more than 80 % of patients with Bechterew’s disease. The detection of the hereditary feature HLA-B27 by itself does not prove the presence of Bechterew’s disease. The results provide the physician with a significant additional indicator that the patient may have Bechterew’s disease.