Diagnosing ankylosing spondylitis usually involves multiple tests. When doctors order blood tests to diagnose ankylosing spondylitis, an individual is experiencing worsening symptoms in their back and joints. Often, a blood test diagnosis means the doctor is looking for evidence of anything else that could be causing the symptoms. However, blood tests by themselves cannot definitively diagnose ankylosing spondylitis, but when combined with imaging and assessment, they can provide important clues that point to the answers.
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Ankylosing spondylitis is arthritis that primarily affects the spine and hips. It can be difficult to diagnose as no single test can provide thorough information for a definitive diagnosis. A combination of diagnostic tests are utilized, including a physical exam, imaging, and blood tests. Doctors are not only looking for results that will point to ankylosing spondylitis, but they are looking for any results that might point away from the spondylitis results that might provide a different explanation for symptoms.
The diagnostic process will begin with the individual’s medical history, family history, and physical exam. During the exam, the doctor will ask questions to help rule out other conditions:
The doctor will check for limitations in mobility and palpate tender areas. Many conditions can cause similar symptoms, so the doctor will check to see if the pain or lack of mobility is consistent with ankylosing spondylitis. The feature sign of ankylosing spondylitis is pain and stiffness in the sacroiliac joints. The sacroiliac joints are located in the lower back, where the base of the spine and pelvis meet. The doctor will look at other spinal conditions and symptoms:
Blood tests can help rule out other conditions and check for signs of inflammation, providing supportive evidence along with the results of imaging tests. It typically only takes about a day or two to get the results. The doctor may order one of the following blood tests:
Erythrocyte sedimentation rate or ESR test.
C-reactive protein – CRP test.
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Prohaska, E et al. “Antinukleäre Antikörper bei Spondylitis ankylosans (Morbus Bechterew)” [Antinuclear antibodies in ankylosing spondylitis (author’s transl)]. Wiener klinische Wochenschrift vol. 92,24 (1980): 876-9.
Sheehan, Nicholas J. “The ramifications of HLA-B27.” Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine vol. 97,1 (2004): 10-4. doi:10.1177/014107680409700102
Wenker KJ, Quint JM. Ankylosing Spondylitis. [Updated 2022 Apr 9]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK470173/
Xu, Yong-Yue, et al. “Role of the gut microbiome in ankylosing spondylitis: an analysis of studies in the literature.” Discovery medicine vol. 22,123 (2016): 361-370.
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