Is There a Cure for Ankylosing Spondylitis?

There is no known cure for ankylosing spondylitis, but research is constantly expanding and evolving.

It is widely believed among researchers that ankylosing spondylitis develops due to genetic and environmental factors. It is also known that about 40% of people with ankylosing spondylitis have bowel inflammation. Combining many factors complicates the condition making a cure or reversal difficult to find.

This article with cover recent advancements in ankylosing spondylitis research and new medications. It will also discuss other treatment options.

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Advancements in Ankylosing Spondylitis Research

The most recent advances in ankylosing spondylitis include the approval for a class of medications called Janus kinase (JAK) inhibitors. The first JAK inhibitor approved for ankylosing spondylitis by the FDA was Xeljanz (tofacitinib) in December 2021. A second JAK inhibitor has since been approved by the FDA as well. Rinvoq (upadacitinib) was approved in April 2022.

Other advancements in ankylosing spondylitis research are on how the condition develops inside the body. Researchers are finding that the gut plays an essential part in the equation. A 2021 study determined that the gut microbiome could be a biomarker for deciding the effectiveness of ankylosing spondylitis treatment. This helps researchers make tools to predict patient outcomes and decide which treatments may be effective.

Future Breakthroughs

Ankylosing spondylitis is a condition of interest for many researchers. A quick look at the U.S. clinical trials search engine ClinicalTrials.gov and you will find over 400 studies currently in progress.

No one can predict future breakthroughs for ankylosing spondylitis research, but the future is promising. Researchers are looking into both symptom management and ways to reverse the condition.

Medications for AS Progression

There are several medications available for ankylosing spondylitis treatment. The first line of treatment is an NSAID. NSAIDs reduce inflammation and pain and can prevent disease progression by limiting the amount of bone formation.

When NSAIDs do not provide adequate treatment, the next step for many healthcare providers is to prescribe a TNF inhibitor. It is the first choice of biologic medication for ankylosing spondylitis. Other medication options include Interleukin-17 (IL-17) and Interleukin-23 (IL-23) inhibitors.

The newest group of medications to treat ankylosing spondylitis is JAK inhibitors. There is no one right medication for every person with ankylosing spondylitis. Some people do not respond to certain medications and must undergo a trial-and-error process to determine what is best for them.

Symptom Management

While there is currently no cure for ankylosing spondylitis, several medications are available to help manage the condition's symptoms. Many people find great relief in a combination of medication and exercise. Patients should work closely with a healthcare provider to find the best treatment plan to live a full and productive life with ankylosing spondylitis.

Add-On Treatment Measures

Medication is not the only treatment for ankylosing spondylitis. A holistic approach is important to maintain mobility and find pain relief. This includes:

Many complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) treatments are also used to treat ankylosing spondylitis. CAM treatments have not been thoroughly studied for ankylosing spondylitis. However, that does not mean they won't provide any benefits. Be sure to talk to a healthcare provider before starting CAM treatments to ensure it does not interfere with conventional therapies.

Summary

Ankylosing spondylitis is a chronic condition that affects the spine and other large joints. Numerous therapies are available to treat the condition, however, there is no known cure. Researchers are finding new medications, with the most recently FDA-approved medication coming out in April 2022. With research always expanding and evolving, the future is promising with new therapies for ankylosing spondylitis.

A Word From Verywell

The future is bright if you or someone you know has ankylosing spondylitis. Research has identified genetic and environmental causes and is working on therapies to bring this condition to an end. Currently, many different medications minimize symptoms and can even slow the progress of ankylosing spondylitis. Stay in contact with your healthcare provider to ensure you learn about any new therapies to add to your treatment plan.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How do you live a normal life with ankylosing spondylitis?

    Working with a healthcare provider to find the best medication regimen, staying active, and keeping all medical appointments are great ways to stay healthy with ankylosing spondylitis. Taking care of your mental health is also important, ask your healthcare provider about local support groups.

  • Can you cure ankylosing spondylitis through diet changes?

    No, you cannot cure ankylosing spondylitis through diet changes or medication. But diet, medication, and exercise are all great ways to slow the condition's progress and relieve pain.

  • Do ankylosing spondylitis patients go into remission?

    Yes, patients with ankylosing spondylitis can go into remission, and has been seen in patients who find relief with certain medications.

7 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Spondylitis Association of America. New treatment approved for ankylosing spondylitis: FDA OKs first JAK inhibitor, tofacitinib.

  3. Abbvie. Rinvoq (upadacitinib) approved by U.S. FDA as an oral treatment for adults with active ankylosing spondylitis.

  4. Chen Z, Zheng X, Wu X, et al. Adalimumab therapy restores the gut microbiota in patients with ankylosing spondylitisFront Immunol. 2021;0. doi:10.3389/fimmu.2021.700570

  5. Xi Y, Jiang T, Chaurasiya B, et al. Advances in nanomedicine for the treatment of ankylosing spondylitisInt J Nanomedicine. 2019;14:8521-8542. doi:10.2147/IJN.S216199

  6. Spondylitis Association of America. Treatment of spondyloarthritis.

  7. Spondylitis Association of America. Complementary treatments.

By Patty Weasler, RN, BSN
Patty is a registered nurse with over a decade of experience in pediatric critical care. Her passion is writing health and wellness content that anyone can understand and use.