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Ankylosing Spondylitis Biologics: A Quick Guide

Does the thought of navigating the world of ankylosing spondylitis biologics feel overwhelming? 

I’ve taken 5 different types of biologics over the last 20 years on my AS journey with a lot of ups and downs. I’d like to walk you through the most important things you need to know if you’re considering this medication. 

My goal is to help you understand what biologics are, the types, and possible side effects so you can find the best fit for you.

young woman working in a lab on new ankylosing spondylitis biologics

What are biologics?

Biologics are a special type of medicine that belongs to a group called disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs). That’s a mouthful!!

There’s another kind of DMARDs called nonbiologic or conventional DMARDs, like methotrexate. These are made of small molecules from labs. 

Biologics are different because they’re made of large molecules from living cells. Both help fight inflammation, but they do it in differently.

Conventional DMARDs suppress the immune system, while biologics target specific parts of it, like proteins that cause inflammation. 

Biologics are trickier to make and cost more than conventional DMARDs. Plus, unlike small pills, they’re usually given as a shot with a special injector or through a tube in a doctor’s office.

What are cytokines?

Think of cytokines as tiny messengers in your body, like the runners passing notes between different teams in a big game. These small proteins are made by various cells, including those in your immune system, to help keep everything running smoothly.

These messengers signal when it’s time to fight off infections, calm swelling, or even make more blood cells.

Sometimes, these messengers can get too enthusiastic, especially in conditions like ankylosing spondylitis. When that happens, they can cause chronic inflammation and tissue damage, leading to pain and stiffness. 

That’s where biological medications come in. They specifically target these overactive messengers, helping to restore balance in your body.

Are you looking for a mind and body approach to manage your ankylosing spondylitis pain? Register your name for our interest list to be included in The Holistic Healing Method, our proven pain management one-to-one coaching program.

What are the three types of biologics for AS?

These specialized medications target specific parts of your immune system to help reduce inflammation and relieve your symptoms. One of my favorite sports is football so I’m going to use some of the names of the positions for the different types.

TNF Inhibitors

Tumor necrosis factor (TNF) is a troublemaker in the body’s inflammation game. TNF inhibitors are like defensive linemen in football. Just as these players aim to block the offensive players from advancing, TNF inhibitors block tumor necrosis factor (TNF) from causing swelling and pain in the body.

IL-17 inhibitors: Interleukin-17 (IL-17) 

Here’s another protein that joins in when things get inflamed. IL-17 inhibitors could be compared to cornerbacks or safeties. Similar to how these players intercept passes and prevent the opposing team from making gains, IL-17 inhibitors intercept IL-17 proteins and prevent them from promoting sore and hot joints.

IL-12/23 inhibitors:Interleukin-12 (IL-12) and interleukin-23 (IL-23)

IL-12/23 inhibitors: Interleukin-12 (IL-12) and interleukin-23 (IL-23) are like linebackers. Like linebackers, IL-12/23 inhibitors target two key players in the inflammatory process—IL-12 and IL-23—to disrupt the opponent’s (ankylosing spondylitis) offensive strategy.

Related Post: Here’s What To Know About Here’s What To Know About Ankylosing Spondylitis Tests

What are some symptoms of an ankylosing spondylitis flare up?

By recognizing and understanding some AS symptoms, you’ll be in a better position to know what to look out for.

Stiffness: Individuals with ankylosing spondylitis often experience stiffness, particularly in the morning or after periods of inactivity. This stiffness can make it difficult to move or perform daily activities.

Pain: Pain is a common symptom of ankylosing spondylitis, especially in the lower back, buttocks, and hips. This pain can range from mild to severe and may be accompanied by stiffness or swelling.

“It’s now recommended that anyone with suspect axSpA and inconclusive X-rays have an MRI of their sacroiliac joints, too. It’s important to ask your doctor for a referral to a rheumatologist if you have chronic back pain that lasts for more than 3 months, starts gradually before the age of 45, is worse with rest, and improves with exercise. This is a specialist specifically trained to diagnose and treat inflammatory diseases that affect your joints and bones, like axSpA.”

Dr. Abhijeet Danve, MD, assistant professor of medicine (rheumatology), Yale School of Medicine

Fatigue: Fatigue is another common symptom of ankylosing spondylitis. People with this condition often feel tired, even after getting an adequate amount of rest.

Reduced mobility: Reduced mobility is a hallmark symptom of AS. As the condition progresses, individuals may experience limited range of motion in the spine and other joints, making it difficult to bend, twist, or turn.

Related Post: How To Relieve Hip Pain While Sleeping On Your Side

Which biologic is best for ankylosing spondylitis?

This answer depends on several factors, including the severity of your symptoms, medical history, and any other underlying health conditions you may have. It’s essential to work closely with a rheumatologist to determine the most appropriate treatment plan for your specific needs.

What are the side effects of biologics for ankylosing spondylitis?

Like all medications, biologics may cause side effects in some people. Common side effects of biologics for ankylosing spondylitis may include:

  • injection site reactions, such as pain, redness, or swelling at the injection site
  • infections, such as upper respiratory infections or urinary tract infections
  • allergic reactions or liver problems (rare but can be serious)

It’s essential to discuss the potential risks and benefits of biologic therapy with your doctor before starting treatment.

Related Post: Easy Treatments For Hip Arthritis Without Surgery To Try Today

Are there new drugs for ankylosing spondylitis?

Janus kinase (JAK) inhibitors represent the newest class of drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration in the United States for the treatment of ankylosing spondylitis.

Tofacitinib and Upadacitinib are two JAK inhibitors currently approved for the treatment of AS, with ongoing research into other potential options for the future. 

These medications have been traditionally used to treat other autoimmune conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, and ulcerative colitis.

Unlike biologics, which are typically administered via injection or infusion, these JAK inhibitors are taken orally, making them a more convenient option.

Final Thoughts

Navigating ankylosing spondylitis and its treatment options can be like finding your way through a maze, but don’t lose hope! By understanding the different types of biologics available—like TNF inhibitors, IL-17 inhibitors, and IL-12/23 inhibitors—you can work with your doctor to find the best fit for your needs. 

Remember, managing AS isn’t just about taking medication; it’s also about listening to your body, staying active, and seeking support from loved ones too. With the right combination of treatment, lifestyle changes, and support, relief from AS symptoms is within reach.

Are you seeking a holistic health approach to manage ankylosing spondylitis? Consider joining our proven pain management program, The Holistic Healing Method. Register for our interest list today.

FAQ

What biologics are effective for ankylosing spondylitis?

Biologics such as TNF inhibitors, IL-17 inhibitors, and IL-12/23 inhibitors have shown effectiveness in reducing inflammation and managing symptoms of ankylosing spondylitis.

What is the most successful biologic drug?

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer as the effectiveness of biologic drugs can vary from person to person. It’s essential to work closely with your healthcare provider to find the best treatment for you.

Are biologics worth the risk of ankylosing spondylitis?

For many individuals, the potential benefits of biologics in managing AS symptoms outweigh the risks. However, it’s crucial to weigh the potential side effects and discuss them with your doctor to make an informed decision.

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