David Ozeri, MD, is a board-certified rheumatologist from Tel Aviv, Israel specializing in arthritis, autoimmune diseases, and biologic therapies.
Ankylosing spondylitis is a type of arthritis characterized by chronic inflammation that primarily affects the spine. Symptoms of this lifelong condition usually begin in early adulthood and include pain and stiffness in the lower back that worsen following rest or inactivity. As the disease progresses, the bones of the spine may fuse, causing limited range of motion and decreased flexibility of the spine.
Besides the spine, ankylosing spondylitis may affect other joints, including the hips, knees, ankles, or shoulders. The disease may also be associated with systemic effects, such as fever, fatigue, eye, or bowel inflammation.
While there is no cure for ankylosing spondylitis, physical therapy and various medications can ease symptoms and help prevent spinal complications.
Yes, ankylosing spondylitis is an autoimmune disease. This means that a person's immune system misguidedly attacks their joints (primarily in the spine) causing chronic inflammation. Organs, like the eyes or intestines, may also be attacked and damaged in ankylosing spondylitis.
Researchers do not know the precise cause of ankylosing spondylitis. It appears that certain environmental factors (for example, exposures to infections or toxins) trigger the disease in genetically susceptible individuals.
There is no single test that can diagnose ankylosing spondylitis. Rather, a doctor makes the diagnosis by reviewing a patient's symptoms, performing a physical examination, and using imaging tests (X-rays). Blood tests may also be ordered to support the diagnosis of ankylosing spondylitis and rule out alternative diagnoses.
Ankylosing spondylitis is a lifelong condition that is not curable. However, through a combination of physical therapy and medication, symptoms of the disease, like pain and stiffness, can be soothed and daily functioning can be optimized.
This term is derived from the Greek word "angkylos," which means bent. It refers to the stiffening and loss of flexibility of the spine that occurs in ankylosing spondylitis. The stiffening results from inflammation of the bones and joints that make up the spine.
Arthritis is inflammation of the joints. While there are over 100 different types of arthritis, the two most common are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Symptoms include joint pain, swelling, and stiffness.
Autoimmune diseases occur when a person's immune system erroneously attacks their own cells and tissues, thinking they are diseased. There are over 100 different autoimmune diseases, and while some target one organ in your body (for example, the thyroid gland in Hashimoto's thyroiditis), others target multiple organs (for example, the skin, kidneys, and more in lupus).
This phenomenon may occur in ankylosing spondylitis and describes the "fusing" or growing together of the "vertebrae," which are the bones in your spine. The fusion is caused by the calcification (build-up of calcium deposits) of the ligaments and discs between each vertebra. It results in pain, stiffness, and a loss of spine flexibility.
This term encompasses a wide array of health conditions that are all characterized by inflammation, which is the immune system’s normal response to harmful substances, germs, or trauma. Chronic inflammatory diseases, such as ankylosing spondylitis, are usually the result of a person's immune system misguidedly attacking their own tissues.
Spondyloarthropathy (also called spondyloarthritis) encompasses six rheumatic diseases that cause inflammatory arthritis. The inflammation occurs at the sites where ligaments and tendons attach to bones, leading to symptoms of pain and stiffness.3 The most common spondyloarthropathy is ankylosing spondylitis, which predominantly affects the spine.
Uveitis is inflammation or swelling of the eye's uvea, which is located in the middle part of the eye and is responsible for supplying blood to the retina. Uveitis is an uncommon condition that may be caused by an autoimmune disease or an infection. Symptoms include eye pain and redness, light sensitivity, and blurry vision.
Wenker KJ, Quint JM. Ankylosing Spondylitis. In: StatPearls. Updated November 14, 2018.
Moon KH, Kim YT. Medical Treatment of Ankylosing Spondylitis. Hip Pelvis. 2014;26(3):129–135. doi:10.5371/hp.2014.26.3.129
Ankylosing Spondylitis. University of Maryland Medical Center.
American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association. Ankylosing spondylitis.
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