How Statins Help People with AS Live Longer
Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS) is a type of chronic arthritis that mainly affects the spine and nearby joints such as the sacroiliac, where the spine connects to the hip. AS is commonly characterized by back pain, including pain and swelling in the pelvis and neck. People with AS can also have problems with their eyes and intestines as well as other larger joints.
Because of the pain and swelling caused by AS, people diagnosed with this disease can also experience limitations in their ability to move. In rare cases, the vertebrae in the spine may fuse over time as well, which can also lead to increased stiffness and pain.
AS and shorter lifespan
In addition to causing physical limitations, one of the difficult realities of AS is that it can shorten peoples’ lives. In fact, one recent large population study showed that people with AS have a 60% chance of dying early, compared to the general population.
Researchers believe this has to do with inflammation in the body characteristic of AS. Inflammation is especially dangerous for the heart, where it can lead to heart damage. Other types of arthritis and inflammatory disease can have the same effect.
Because of this risk, doctors and scientists are actively trying to find medicines that not only treat the underlying causes and symptoms of AS but also increase the lifespan of people with the disease.
Statins help increase lifespan of people with AS
Statins belong to one class of medicine that seems to lengthen the lives of people with AS.4,5 Statins are commonly prescribed cholesterol-lowering drugs that help people avoid heart disease. But recent research shows that statins also seem to decrease inflammation overall.
To understand how statins might help treat people with AS, one research team examined the health records of nearly 3,000 people with AS. The study groups were divided into people who took statins and those who did not. After five years, the study showed that people not taking statins had a 37% higher risk of dying than people were taking statins.4,5
The protection seems to be two-fold: in reducing cholesterol but also in reducing the damage caused by inflammation. More research needs to be done, but the study authors agree that these are promising results. In fact, the researchers found that people with AS benefitted more from statins than people without AS.4,5
“As current guidelines for the management of cardiovascular risk in ankylosing spondylitis lack strong evidence-based recommendations for cardiovascular screening, our promising findings call for further studies to generate the high-level evidence needed to define the role of statin use in ankylosing spondylitis care,” the team concluded.5
What other therapies are used to control AS?
People with AS can benefit from a combination of medications, treatments, and lifestyle modifications to control the symptoms and disease progression of ankylosing spondylitis. These include:
Other than back pain and fatigue, what is the most common symptom that AS patients experience?