Jennifer Dye Visscher, artist, blogger and social media health activist began her love affair with apples a year ago.
And on September 30, 2011, Jenna will paint the Big Apple in style.
Jenna has been painting an apple a day for the past year. Why? To help draw attention to a condition called Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS) which she has suffered from for over a decade. The condition affects approximately 2.4 million Americans and often takes up to 10 years to get diagnosed, because of how little is known about the disease. As a matter of fact, AS is the most overlooked cause of persistent back pain in young adults.
Jenna has now painted over 300 apples and drawn a large following- from around the world Australia, India, Spain, South Africa - with her art and her blog, "The Feeding Edge."
Why apples? Because they symbolize "that health, healing and perseverance are possible despite dealing with a difficult and painful disease, " says Jenna.
On Friday, September 30, Jenna will be painting the BIG Apple in Times Square, at the Roy Arias Studios at 300 West 43rd Street. She will be holding a 24-hour Apple-A-Thon to help increase awareness of the condition, raise funds and just have fun. The public is invited to join in and paint, watch or buy an apple!
AS has not kept Jenna down. She is a power writer for The Fight Like a Girl Club and is published on WEGOHealth.com in the written word and via video.
She asks people to "Be part of the Story, Be part of the Cure!"
Friday September 30, between 11:30 am-4:30 pm; Saturday, October 1, between 9:30 am 1:30 pm
Roy Arias Studios, Room 301c at 300 West 43rd Street
Ankylosing spondylitis is a chronic inflammatory disease that primarily affects joints of the spine, causing severe back pain. It may also cause various other symptoms throughout the body, including stiffness and fatigue. Some patients with ankylosing spondylitis may experience inflammation and discomfort in the shoulders, hips, ribs and small joints of the hands and feet. In some advanced cases, inflammation can cause a bone formation on the spine. This causes the spine to fuse in a forward-fixed position, resulting in a stooped-over posture that significantly limits mobility.
The symptoms of ankylosing spondylitis and its effect on the body can be disabling, making it difficult for patients to work and even accomplish simple everyday activities. Ankylosing spondylitis is more than a disease of the spine, as patients also may experience other disease-related complications associated, such as inflammatory bowel disease, inflammatory eye disease and psoriasis.
Prevalence of ankylosing spondylitis worldwide is 0.1-1 percent of the general population, amounting to approximately 61 million people, with the highest prevalence in northern European countries and the lowest in sub-Saharan Africa.
Onset of ankylosing spondylitis typically occurs in young people between the ages of 17 and 35. Ankylosing spondylitis affects nearly three times as many men as women, and women tend to have a milder form of the disease in the spine.
Underlying Cause & Triggers
Although there is no known cause of ankylosing spondylitis, genetics are thought to play a role. Nearly 90 percent of individuals who have ankylosing spondylitis also have a genetic marker called HLA-B27. While this marker is not always indicative of ankylosing spondylitis, people with the marker who also have family members with ankylosing spondylitis are at a significantly greater risk for the disease.
Ankylosing spondylitis may be characterized by:
Weight loss and fatigue
Chest pain and tenderness of the sternum
Joint pain (hips, elbows, knees, and ankles)
In the early stages of the disease, ankylosing spondylitis can be difficult to diagnose. When pain and stiffness continue in the lower back, the physician may obtain an x-ray or other imaging test to examine the spine and surrounding joints. A review of the patient's medical history is completed as is a physical exam. Doctors may also check for the presence of the HLA-B27 gene. Blood tests, such as a complete blood test (CBC) or an erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR), may also be used to aid in diagnosis. An elevated ESR may be evidence of inflammation within the joints, but is not necessarily indicative of ankylosing spondylitis.
Physical & Emotional Impact
The impact of ankylosing spondylitis is far reaching in patients' lives. The physical effects often influence an individual's emotional and mental state. Patients may find it difficult to adjust to life with an illness compared with life before developing the disease.
When diagnosed with a chronic disease like ankylosing spondylitis, some patients may experience depression, loss of libido and decreased ability to work. While ankylosing spondylitis is associated with certain complications, most people go on to live an active lifestyle. To decrease physical strains on patients, a doctor may suggest physical therapy to help maintain flexibility and to help decrease joint problems.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as aspirin or ibuprofen, are the first stage of medication in treating the pain and stiffness associated with ankylosing spondylitis. Disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs), such as sulfasalazine, are second-line medications. More recently, biologics that target tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-alpha have been approved and are proven effective to treat ankylosing spondylitis.