Ankylosing Spondylitis - Stand Strong Sculpture Art

Ankylosing Spondylitis & TNF Blockers


While Ankylosing Spondylitis can become quite debilitating, there are treatment options to minimize symptoms and increase general patient comfort. Initial treatments typically include strengthening exercises for maintaining mobility, physical therapy for increased flexibility and decreased pain, canes and walkers to reduce pressure, and alternative therapies such as yoga and acupuncture to lessen overall symptoms.

In addition, there are prescription drugs that have proven very effective in treating ankylosing spondylitis. NSAIDs, also known as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, are generally used to treat pain and reduce inflammation. NSAIDs can be taken daily or as pain occurs, but studies have shown that daily usage proves most effective.

TNF Blockers are a form of prescription drugs that can be used to effectively treat AS. These medications promote the body’s inflammatory response, which is usually the underlying cause of autoimmune disorders such as ankylosing spondylitis and rheumatoid arthritis.  The most widely-used TNF Blockers are Enbrel, Humira and Remicade, all of which have been FDA approved. A few facts about these medications:

Enbrel:

This drug was the first TNF blocker approved by the FDA. It acts like the receptors in the body that bind to tumor necrosis factor (TNF-alpha) and absorbs the excess TNF so it cannot attach to natural receptors. An excess amount of  the protein TNF-alpha has been associated with inflammatory arthritis, therefore, Enbrel is effective because it helps maintain a regular amount of TNF-alpha and improve mobility.

Humira:

Humira is another commonly prescribed TNF Blocker. This medication works similarly to Enbrel, but is manufactured in a lab using only human proteins, as opposed to animal proteins.  Humira has been found to slow disease progression, reduce pain and improve joint function. Both Enbrel and Humira are administered by injection or self-injection, but Humira is administered once every 14 days, while Enbrel must be injected every 3-4 days.

Remicade:

This medication is a biological response modifier, which binds to and blocks TNF-alpha. Remicade was the second TNF Blocker to be approved by the FDA, and has been used to treat different forms of inflammatory arthritis. When TNF-alpha, a protein which usually fights infection, is present in abundant amounts it can cause severe pain due to inflammation. Unlike Humira and Enbrel, Remicade is administered through intravenous infusion, otherwise known as through an I.V., and takes 1-2 hours to fully infuse.

If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis, please seek help from a licensed physician. This disease is very treatable and does not need to interfere with your daily life. Different treatments, therapies and medications can improve the progression of AS and  greatly improve mobility, pain management and quality of life. Your disease does not define you, but your attitude does.