Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) is a type of arthritis that affects the spine. Ankylosing means stiff or rigid, spondyl means spine, and itis refers to inflammation. The disease causes inflammation of the spine and large joints, resulting in stiffness and pain. The disease may result in erosion at the joint between the spine and the hip bone. This is called the sacroiliac joint. It may also cause bony bridges to form between vertebrae in the spine, fusing those bones. Bones in the chest may also fuse.
The cause of AS is not known, but researchers think that genes play a role. A gene called HLA-B27 occurs in over 95 percent of Caucasian-Americans who have AS, but only 50% of African-Americans who have the disease. However, some people with the HLA-B27 gene do not have AS.
AS is more common among people ages 17 to 35. It can occur in children and older adults as well. The disease affects more young men than women. It tends to run in families.
Symptoms of AS tend to go away and come back over periods of time. Symptoms can occur a bit differently in each person. The symptoms may include:
The symptoms of ankylosing spondylitis can be like other health conditions. Make sure to see your health care provider for a diagnosis.
The process starts with a medical history and a physical exam. Tests may also be done, such as:
Treatment will depend on your symptoms, your age, and your general health. It will also depend on how severe the condition is. The goal of treatment is to reduce pain and stiffness, prevent deformities, and maintain as normal a lifestyle as possible. Treatment may include:
Talk with your health care providers about the risks, benefits, and possible side effects of all medications.
Over time, a forward curve of the spine can develop with AS. Patients with AS are at great risk of thinning of the bones (osteoporosis). This can result in spinal fractures. AS can also lead to psoriasis, and inflammation of the eye, aortic valve, and intestinal tract.
There is no cure for AS, so it is important to work on a treatment plan with your health care provider. Work on lifestyle changes that can improve your quality of life. Stay active and keep up with exercise to reduce pain. A physical therapist can help you design an exercise plan and assist you in keeping good posture.
If your symptoms get worse or you have new symptoms, let your health care provider know.
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your health care provider:
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