So apparently the universe deemed that it would be awesome if I got some more drama in my life and decided to gift me with a rare (for women) form of arthritis. Yay! <----sarcasm
After a plethora of fruitless testing by my physician for everything we could think of that could explain why I always felt like an old lady, I was referred to a rheumatologist who assessed me physically and sent me for some specialised blood tests that came back positive as markers for ANKYLOSING SPONDYLITIS!!!! Coupled with the amount of pain I live with daily, my limits in physical mobility, and the noticeable damage to some of my bone structure, I was diagnosed with this auto-immune disease that apparently has no cure, which is, you know, GREAT. <----also sarcasm
Essentially this condition causes inflammation of the ligaments, tendons and other tissue surrounding the sacroiliac joints (where the spine attaches to the pelvis), but can also affect other areas as well in some unlucky people. The resulting pain and stiffness is usually caused by the eventual fusing of the vertebra as a means of healing itself by transforming the muscle ligaments to bone. In its severe forms, it can cause a forward curvature of the upper torso which can severely alter my ability to breathe properly and make me look garishly unattractive. The structural changes to the spine can also place pressure on the nerves that control digestion which can lead to irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn's disease or other bowel abnormalities. It is essentially my body attacking itself because it’s crazy like that.
Luckily for me, it isn’t all that advanced, but we don’t know the extent of the damage to my hips and spine until I get an MRI after this baby is born. Unlucky for me, since I am pregnant and plan on nursing, there is no pain medication that is safe for me to take at this time so I must just grin and bear it. Not that I would take pain meds anyways, since the side effects are worse than seeking alternative methods. The good news is that it should not affect my pregnancy or birth on its own. Based on the info I have found online, women with AS are pushed into c-sections for the same reasons normal women are, which for the most part are unnecessary (if you are a birth/pregnancy junkie like me and read prolifically on birthing politics/practices and notice these things) and so I must just avoid the practices that can lead to them. An interesting tidbit though is that anesthesiologists who are aware of the AS will often refuse to give epidural anesthesia due to the risk of further damaging the spine and causing paralysis. It may explain the nerve damage I have from the one that was given to me during Leo’s birth. I will have to mention this to my birth team so that it isn’t even offered as an option. It is also important that I birth in positions that will help widen my hips, since flexibility in that region can be affected by my AS, so no supine position for me, especially since it is very painful for me to lay on my back as it is. Other than that, birthing this baby should be fine, as long as no other health complications crop up.
So, now that I know what my problem is, how do I go about this then? What is suggested as the most effective treatment of AS is consistent exercise, especially yoga-type stretches/movements that will maintain mobility and proper posture. I do this normally, which is why my rheumatologist tells me that I am more flexible than normal standards, never mind for AS standards. The other suggestion is altering my diet considerably by limiting/eliminating inflammatory foods like starches and adopting a gluten-free, whole-foods, alkalising lifestyle. This is easier said than done and it also means all my comfort foods must now be avoided. Oi. Which as sucky as this sounds, I am somewhat relieved that this is an option since I’ve been moving towards eating like this anyways, now it has just become a necessity. It might help motivate me a little.
Overall I am miffed that I have this disease, at the same time I’m glad that I now know why I feel like crap all the time and that it isn’t anything I have done or am not doing that is causing my discomfort.
For the record, it still blows.