Ankylosing Spondylitis and Weight: Understanding the Connections

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Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) is a type of arthritis that causes inflammation in the spine and other joints. Because of the nature of this condition, body weight can be a factor in various ways:

  • weight loss or gain can be affected by AS symptoms
  • AS symptoms and treatment effectiveness can be affected by weight

This article will explore the connections and offer some tips on managing weight when diagnosed with AS.

It’s possible for the symptoms of AS to contribute to weight fluctuations.

Weight loss

While the primary symptoms of ankylosing spondylitis are back pain, stiffness, and joint pain, there are various other symptoms you may experience.

AS can cause symptoms like:

  • appetite loss
  • fatigue
  • digestive pain or complications
  • eye inflammation or vision changes
  • weight loss
  • difficulty taking deep breaths, if the ribs are affected
  • skin rashes

Some of these symptoms may be due to the chronic inflammation caused by AS.

Loss of appetite and weight loss can increase your fatigue and lead to additional problems. Managing digestive complications related to AS, like inflammatory bowel conditions such as Crohn’s disease, can also affect your weight and appetite.

If you’re experiencing a reduced appetite or weight loss, try:

  • eating small snacks or meals every few hours
  • eating a variety of foods
  • eating higher protein, higher calorie foods

Treatments for your AS should help to relieve these symptoms.

If you’re continuing to experience weight loss or a reduced appetite, speak with your doctor about your options. They may suggest trying another medication, adding supplements to your diet, or working with a dietitian to ensure that you’re getting the nutrition your body needs.

Weight gain

On the other hand, sometimes the symptoms of AS can contribute to weight gain. The pain, stiffness, and fatigue can make it difficult to engage in physical activities.

You may also feel stress and other mental health impacts that make engaging in exercise more challenging. A reduction in your activity levels can lead to weight gain.

There’s also some research that certain treatments for AS may contribute to weight gain. This may also happen as a result of successful treatment restoring your appetite. If you have questions about how your medications may impact your weight, speak with your doctor about your concerns.

When you’re able to exercise, certain types of exercises and movements are especially beneficial for those diagnosed with AS. Exercise can help you to address any weight gain caused by AS as well as increase your mobility and flexibility. Try spending time:

  • stretching
  • doing aerobic activities
  • strengthening muscles
  • focusing on balance

You can also consider working with a physical therapist to create an exercise plan that addresses your current abilities and needs.

It’s also important to care for your mental health. Consider working with a psychologist or other mental health professional to address the effect that your AS diagnosis may have on your emotional health.

Ankylosing spondylitis can cause pain in the various joints of the body. A higher body weight puts more stress on the joints, which could potentially cause additional damage to the cartilage and increased discomfort.

One 2021 study of weight and ankylosing spondylitis found that both those with underweight and those with obesity had “worse disease activity.” The researchers also noted that overweight and obesity could influence the success of treatment.

They emphasized the need to maintain a moderate weight for the best disease management and treatment outcomes.

If you’re unsure about the role your weight plays in your disease or treatment, speak with your doctor. They can offer suggestions on an appropriate diet, exercise, and resources to help you manage your weight.

Your body weight may have an influence on your symptoms and treatments when diagnosed with AS. It’s also possible for your AS symptoms to affect your body weight.

Eating a variety of nutritious foods, incorporating physical movement into your daily activities, and working with your doctor or other specialists can help you with weight management.

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