What is ankylosing spondylitis?

Ankylosing spondylitis is a chronic, long-term inflammation of the joints between the vertebrae and between the spine and pelvis. It is an autoimmune disorder, meaning affected individuals express a unique protein (HLA-B27) that mistakenly triggers the immune system to attack healthy joint tissues. Over time, the affected joints can become fused together. The disease is thought to have a genetic component. It generally develops between 20 and 40 years of age and is three times more common in males (Source: PubMed).

Ankylosing spondylitis usually begins with pain and stiffness in the lower back and pelvis and worsens with inactivity, particularly during sleep or in the morning. The disease can improve with exercise. Over time it may spread to involve other sections of the spine and may begin to limit your mobility, particularly in the lower spine and sometimes in the rib cage.

The course of ankylosing spondylitis is unpredictable. You may experience periods of remission and unless your hips are severely involved, you have a good chance of retaining fairly good spinal function. Unrelated infections and stress can provoke new attacks.There is no known prevention of the disorder, but in many cases medications and exercise can improve both pain and functionality. Surgery is used only in rare cases of severe pain.

Ankylosing spondylitis is a life-long disorder and can restrict your mobility, but it is not life threatening on its own. In rare cases, it can contribute to aortic heart valve and heart rhythm problems, pulmonary fibrosis, or restrictive lung disease. A more common complication is fracture or injury due to the spinal damage.

Seek immediate medical care (call 911) for serious symptoms of back injury, such as severe pain, numbness, weakness of the extremities, or urinary and fecal incontinence.


What are the symptoms of ankylosing spondylitis?

Symptoms of ankylosing spondylitis commonly start with intermittent bouts of pain in your lower back, with both pain and stiffness worsening at night, on arising, or during periods of inactivity. Conversely, symptoms frequently improve with exercise. Although pain is initially concentrated in the sacroiliac joints, which lie between the pelvis and spine, over time pain may spread to other ... Read more about ankylosing spondylitissymptoms


What causes ankylosing spondylitis?

The cause of ankylosing spondylitis is not known, but the disease is thought to have a genetic component and appears to happen most prominently in young adults between the ages of 20 and 40, with some cases beginning as young as 10. Ankylosing spondylitis also occurs more frequently in males.

In ankylosing spondylitis, long-term inflammation of the joints between the vertebra... Read more about ankylosing spondylitiscauses


How is ankylosing spondylitis treated?

The most common treatment for the pain and inflammation associated with ankylosing spondylitis is nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). In more challenging cases, some health care professionals prescribe corticosteroid therapy or drugs for their immune-suppressing properties. Other drugs, tumor-necrosis-factor alpha (TNF-a) blockers, help block a certain inflammatory protein known... Read more about ankylosing spondylitistreatments

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Aug 9, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Bones, Joints and Muscles

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