Depression and Ankylosing Spondylitis

There’s no denying it: When your physical health suffers, your mental health often does too (and vice versa). A full one-third of people who have a chronic illness develop symptoms of depression, and this includes ankylosing spondylitis (AS), a type of inflammatory arthritis that predominantly affects the lower back and pelvis.

According to a new study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, having AS more than doubles the risk.

The study relied on data from the Korean National Health Insurance system. Researchers identified 11,465 people who were newly diagnosed with AS and compared them to a much larger number of patients without AS.

In addition to causing lower back and hip pain, ankylosing spondylitis can cause pain in other joints, fatigue, and trouble sleeping. As symptoms worsen, the disease can take a toll on your overall quality of life. Some patients find it difficult to drive, keep up with their job, or maintain friendships.

Those kind of problems — not to mention the chronic physical discomfort — could very well trigger depression, especially if you have a predisposition to mental health issues.

Inflammation may also be an important factor. “Recent studies reported that proinflammatory cytokines [which cause inflammation in AS] take important roles in the pathophysiology of depression,” the authors noted.

People with AS who develop additional physical ailments — such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and stroke — are even more vulnerable to depression, as are low-income AS patients, according to the study. “Clinicians treating AS patients should acknowledge the demographic characteristics, comorbidity, risk factors, and latent risk for depression,” the authors wrote.

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