Ankylosing Spondylitis and Iritis

Ankylosing spondylitis complications can vary widely. Sufferers deal with inflammation of the finger joints, elbows, feet and more. It expresses itself in new ways from victim to victim, but the common thread is the slow fusion of the spine.

This is my first in a series of posts about ankylosing spondylitis complications. I aim to help you understand, treat and cope with the most common symptoms of AS.


Iritis among AS sufferers occurs in as many as many as 40% of the diagnosed population. Haven’t heard of it? Count yourself lucky. AS support groups online are overflowing with inquiries and complaints about it. As it turns out, that 40% number sounds pretty accurate.

The iris features a series of muscular fibers that expand and contract to control of light in the eye. These muscular fibers can become inflamed for any number of reasons, including ankylosing spondylitis. For AS sufferers, this is just another point of inflammation to be aware of.

Symptoms of Iritis

Uveitis is the term used to describe the inflammation of any part of the eye. Iritis is a type of uveitis. It is the inflammation of the front of the eye, including the iris and anterior chamber. Also known as anterior uveitis, common symptoms can include:

  • seeing spots
  • sensitivity to light
  • eye pain
  • eye redness
  • blurred vision
  • misshapen pupil
  • headaches

Not only that but, if untreated, victims can suffer complications leading up to, but not limited to, blindness.

Iritis causes daylight-induced migraines, a constant flow of tears and even permanent blindness.

Treatment for Iritis

Without immediate attention from your doctor, there aren’t many options for relief from iritis. Ibuprofen and other over the counter anti-inflammatory medications will only provide slight comfort. Some sufferers suggest wrap-around sunglasses for daylight sensitivity, but even that is only temporary.

Needless to say, if you are suffering any symptoms of iritis, it’s best to speak with your doctor right away.

Happily, this particularly troubling condition is often easily treatable. Most common treatments for uveitis involves steroid eye drops, oral steroids and dilation drops.

Dilation drops relieve pain that might be present while preventing scar tissue from forming. Steroids, taken via eye drop or orally, usually improve the condition fastest. In most cases, steroids will improve the condition within the first week of application. If prescribed steroids, make sure to ask about the risks of cataracts and glaucoma.

Understanding iritis as a common manifestation is important in your battle against ankylosing spondylitis.

The Psychological Effects of Chronic Pain

the psychological effects of chronic painI wouldn’t wish the psychological effects of chronic pain upon my worst enemy.

When I think back, I can’t remember the last time I had a ‘normal,’ pain-free day. In almost a decade, I’ve suffered daily – and I’m one of the lucky ones, receiving my diagnosis early.

If you’ve had to stave off pain-induced depression and anxiety daily, you know what I’m talking about. As such, it’s important to review the psychological impact of chronic pain.

The impact of Chronic Pain

Studies by the International Association for the Study of Pain found chronic pain can cause the following:

  • forgetfulness
  • difficulty with attention
  • difficulty completing tasks
  • imparement of mental flexibility
  • speed of response in cognitive task
  • depression

Everyone copes with their pain in their own way, so this is obviously not a complete list. But it is eye-opening.

Major symptoms of ankylosing spondylitis include things like iritis, tendonitis, and anemia. These seem bad enough. Medications prescribed to help fight your inflammation come with their own lists of side-effects. Hair loss, trouble sleeping and danger of infection are just a few examples. These can compound the mental strain of your battle against ankylosing spondylitis.

As if that’s not enough, stress acts as a factor in arthritis flare ups. Because of this, if you’re not careful, the stress of chronic pain can become cyclical in nature.

So what are you supposed to do about all this?

If you’re suffering from depression as a result of your ankylosing spondylitis pain, please reach out for help. Schedule an appointment with a therapist, join up with support groups and start talking to your friends and family. Talk to your doctor about potential therapies, start exercising to help boost your endorphins, start trying to sleep with a regular schedule.

This is a battle you can win.

Doctors studying the psychology of chronic pain found social support to play a large factor in quality of life for sufferers. The psychological trauma of chronic pain causes a lot of sufferers to cut off social interaction. This makes the shrinking your social circles and support groups a dangerous reality.

Don’t let ankylosing spondylitis isolate you

The importance of social support is no joke. Studies have found that simply viewing a photo of a romantic partner lowers the pain levels subjects felt. This, even though the pain stimulus remained unchanged with or without the photo.

Further studies prove the larger and more high quality the social support you receive, the better. It’s time to start building up that social support circle that may have shrunk in the time since you began your suffering. Too many people receive no diagnosis precisely because of a lack of awareness of this disease.

Personally, I spend a lot of time at both the and forums. I’ve found just reading about the struggles of others and how they’re carrying on can inspire me, and it most likely can for you, too.


I can’t stress this enough: you are not alone in your fight against ankylosing spondylitis. You should never have to feel isolated in your pain.


If you’re having a bad one, want to offer someone else words of encouragement or suggest an online support source I missed, leave a comment below.