The Ankylosing Spondylitis Association of Ireland (ASAI) today announced their SUAS (Supporting and Understanding Ankylosing Spondylitis) app is now available for download for Android users, in addition to the iOS version launched last year.
The app can act as a ‘physio-on-your-phone’ to encourage ankylosing spondylitis (AS) patients to undertake regular exercises, as instructed by their physiotherapist, to help improve AS symptoms in the long-term. It can also benefit those living in areas of the country with limited access to fitness or health amenities.
Seoirse Smith, Secretary of the ASAI said: “People who have had chronic back pain for more than three months, which doesn’t improve with painkillers or, surprisingly, with rest, are encouraged to visit their GP who may refer them to a rheumatologist for an assessment.”
“If diagnosed early, AS is a very manageable condition which, through paying attention to a good exercise regime and general health, can lead to a good quality of life. Whether you have AS or not, it can be difficult to stay motivated to exercise and know what the best exercises for you are. SUAS contains information on activities from walking to Pilates and has a library of over 30 guided exercises, shaped by healthcare professionals.”
“The ASAI is delighted with the popularity of the app since its initial launch in October last year and we are excited to make this tool available to android users also. It is an empowering tool which should be available to all AS patients to assist them in better managing their condition.”
The SUAS app, which was developed in partnership with the University Hospital Waterford Rheumatology team and supported by Pfizer Healthcare Ireland, has been downloaded more than 1000 times by iPhone users since its launch last year. It has provided people with AS with educational information, a library of instructional exercise videos, from beginner to advanced levels, and the ability to track and monitor the user’s progress over time.
Dr Claire Sheehy, Consultant Rheumatologist at University Hospital Waterford explained: “Ankylosing spondylitis is associated with inflammation of joints in the spine which may cause the bones to fuse; this may be very painful. Early detection of the disease is vital, as if left untreated, it can lead to permanent stiffening of the spine.”
“However with proper management and exercise those with AS can live a normal lifestyle and continue doing the things they enjoy. Regular mobility exercises are an essential part of managing AS to reduce the stiffness and pain associated with the condition and as a flexible, on-the-go tool, SUAS supports those with AS to manage key aspects of daily lifestyle, including managing symptoms, maintaining posture and working with AS.”
Users have the option to fill in simple surveys within the app to establish their level of functionality and track their ‘score’ over time as they exercise and improve strength and flexibility. They can keep a record of this to discuss with their healthcare professional to better inform their treatment.
AS is a form of arthritis in which inflammation of the spine causes stiffness, tenderness and discomfort. The condition has an early age of onset, typically late teens to early twenties, with patients experiencing chronic lower back pain and fatigue initially which gradually worsens over time.3 AS may also cause pain or swelling in the shoulders, hips, knees, heels, chest/ribs and small joints of the hands and feet.
Declan Connolly, Country Brand Lead, Pfizer Healthcare Ireland commented: “The ASAI and the Rheumatology Team of University Hospital Waterford have really responded to the needs of people with AS in creating SUAS – giving people, at all stages in their journey with AS, access to the information they need to better manage their condition. We were delighted to be able to support such a worthwhile project.”
The SUAS application is free to download from the Play and App Stores and joins the suite of support and information resources for patients living with AS. In addition to the SUAS app, an educational booklet is also available for download from the site www.ankylosing-spondylitis.ie.
About Ankylosing Spondylitis
Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS) is a form of arthritis which can make your neck, lower back and buttocks feel painful and stiff. In some people, it can also affect the shape of the spine.
“Ankylosing” means “fusing together”. “Spondylitis” means “inflammation of the spine”, which causes stiffness, tenderness and discomfort. AS can lead to new bone formation in your spine.
Although it mainly affects the spine, AS can also cause pain and/or swelling in the shoulders, hips, knees, heels, chest/ribs and small joints of the hands and feet.
Sometimes, the eyes are also affected. In rare cases, the heart and lungs can be affected, too.
The severity of AS symptoms varies greatly. Some people will have mild neck/back pain and discomfort for short periods; others will have severe pain and stiffness in several parts of the body for a long time.
In severe cases, AS can seriously impact on everyday life and lead to disability.
Over time, AS can cause the spine to become rigid and curved, giving the person a “bent forward” posture. This is known as kyphosis. It’s important to note that not everyone with AS will develop kyphosis.
Significant medical advances in recent years mean that new treatments can reduce the pain associated and symptoms of the condition and help improve the quality of life for people living with AS.
Key Points about AS
Ankylosing spondylitis is a systemic disorder that affects the joints and can cause constitutional symptoms, cardiac symptoms, and anterior uveitis.
Initial manifestation is usually back pain and stiffness sometimes along with peripheral joint symptoms and/or anterior uveitis.
Diagnose based on the results of lumbosacral spine imaging, blood tests (ESR, C-reactive protein, and CBC), and/or explicit clinical criteria.
Use NSAIDs to help reduce symptom severity and improve function.
Use sulfasalazine, methotrexate, or TNF antagonists to relieve joint symptoms.
The SUAS application and Booklet was supported by an unrestricted educational grant from Pfizer Healthcare Ireland.