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Could I have ankylosing spondylitis?

Q) I'm a 28-year-old woman and have been suffering from acute low back pain for the past five years. I used to have occasional bouts of back pain in my teens but this was dismissed by doctors as growing pains. I'm also becoming increasingly stiff along the length of my spine and am developing a slight stoop. Having read the feature about ankylosing spondylitis in Arthritis Today, I suggested to my GP that this might be a possibility, but he said that women don’t get it. What's your opinion?
Maddy Gibson, Berwick on Tweed, Northumberland (Spring 2006)

A) Many of you will have been aware of the recent Arthritis Research UK information week on ankylosing spondylitis (Jan 2006) and the associated focus in the last edition of Arthritis Today. This condition affects men more than women (it used to be said it was 10 times more common in men, but a closer figure is probably three times) and it's often overlooked in women because of this. You should remind your doctor that women can be affected as well as men, and that an x-ray of your back and pelvis should be done, with referral to a rheumatologist if the diagnosis is confirmed.


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