What Causes Spondylitis?

Spondylitis in Man

Spondylitis is a term used to describe inflammation of the vertebrae in the spine. There are several types of spondylitis, each with its own specific causes and characteristics. Some common types of spondylitis and their causes include:

  • Ankylosing Spondylitis: Ankylosing spondylitis is a chronic inflammatory arthritis that primarily affects the spine, particularly the sacroiliac joints (the joints that connect the spine to the pelvis). The exact cause is unknown, but it is believed to be related to a combination of genetic and environmental factors. A specific genetic marker called HLA-B27 is often associated with ankylosing spondylitis.
  • Infectious Spondylitis: Also known as spondylodiscitis or spinal infection, this type of spondylitis is caused by a bacterial or fungal infection in the spine. Infections can occur through the bloodstream, surgery, or as a result of trauma. Common pathogens include Staphylococcus aureus and tuberculosis.
  • Psoriatic Spondylitis: Psoriatic spondylitis is a type of spondylitis that occurs in individuals with psoriasis, a chronic skin condition. It can cause inflammation in the spine and joints. The exact cause is not fully understood but is thought to involve genetic predisposition and immune system dysfunction.
  • Reactive Spondylitis: Reactive spondylitis, also known as reactive arthritis, typically occurs in response to a bacterial infection in the urinary or gastrointestinal tract. Common triggers include Chlamydia, Salmonella, and Shigella infections. Genetic factors may also play a role in susceptibility.
  • Enteropathic Spondylitis: Enteropathic spondylitis is associated with inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. It is believed to result from an abnormal immune response to the gut inflammation seen in IBD.
  • Undifferentiated Spondylitis: Undifferentiated spondylitis refers to a form of spondylitis that does not fit the criteria for specific types mentioned above. It may involve back pain and spinal inflammation without meeting the criteria for ankylosing spondylitis or other defined subtypes.
  • Traumatic Spondylitis: Trauma or injury to the spine, such as fractures or dislocations, can cause inflammation and spondylitis in the affected area.
  • Degenerative Spondylitis: While not a traditional spondylitis, degenerative changes in the spine, such as osteoarthritis or degenerative disc disease, can lead to spinal inflammation and pain.

Spondylitis can cause symptoms such as back pain, stiffness, reduced flexibility, and in some cases, joint damage. Treatment options depend on the specific type and severity of spondylitis but may include medications (e.g., nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or biologics), physical therapy, lifestyle modifications, and, in some cases, surgery. If you suspect you have spondylitis or are experiencing symptoms, it’s important to seek medical evaluation and diagnosis from a healthcare provider or rheumatologist for appropriate management and treatment.

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