Rheumatologist, Dr. Hillary Norton, who is living with ankylosing spondylitis (AS) a form of axial spondyloarthritis (axSpA), discusses axSpA, signs and symptoms, her own experience with a form of axSpA and tools available to help patients get diagnosed faster. She is joined by Jill, a patient living with non-radiographic axial spondyloarthritis (nr-axSpA) who shares her experience, how it has impacted her daily life and offers advice for others living with unexplained back pain.
While Dr. Hillary Norton first displayed symptoms of AS in her 20s, it wasn’t until she developed a severe case of iritis during her residency training in her early 30s that she was diagnosed with the disease. Upon her diagnosis, Dr. Norton initially declined treatment, refusing to accept that she had a chronic disease. However, over the next few years the pain in her back progressed, making everyday activities and some of the things she loved most, like running, increasingly difficult. At times, Dr. Norton had trouble with stairs, and was unable to get out of bed on her own for several years. Dr. Norton’s personal experience inspired her to specialize in rheumatology: she felt her experience would allow her to better connect with patients. Today, Dr. Norton runs her own practice out of Santa Fe, New Mexico, and sees many patients with AS, most of whom have never heard of the disease prior to their diagnosis. She strives to increase awareness of AS so those who are not yet or are newly diagnosed can understand the signs and symptoms, the options for managing the disease, and the support available to help those affected know they are not alone.