Ankylosing Spondylitis FAQs

Last updated: July 2019

1. What is ankylosing spondylitis?

Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) is a type of arthritis that mainly affects the joints in the spine (between the vertebrae). It can also affect other joints in the body. It’s pronounced “ankle-oh-sing spohn-dih-lie-tiss.” AS causes chronic inflammation in the joints which can lead to joint damage over time. “Ankylosing” refers to abnormal stiffness and difficulty moving a joint due to joining, or fusion, of the bones. “Spondylitis” means inflammation of the spine.
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2. Can ankylosing spondylitis be cured?

There is no cure for AS, but there are treatments that can help your symptoms. Treatment for ankylosing spondylitis is tailored to the individual, as there is a wide variety in how AS affects different people. Read more here.

3. How is ankylosing spondylitis diagnosed? What tests can I expect?

It can take several years to get a correct diagnosis for AS. Diagnosis of AS is commonly made by a rheumatologist, a specialist who focuses on disorders of the joints, bones, and connective tissue. The diagnosis is determined through a combination of tests, including a medical history, physical exam, blood tests, and imaging tests. Read more here.

4. What are the symptoms of ankylosing spondylitis?

Most people with AS begin to have symptoms in as teens or young adults, although some people have symptoms start earlier (in childhood) or later in their adult years. The most common early symptom is pain and stiffness in the low back and sacroiliac joints, also called the SI joints. The SI joints are at the very bottom of your spine. Thi low back pain is usually worse after periods of inactivity, such as in the morning after a night’s sleep, and improves with activity. Early symptoms can also include fatigue, a mild fever, or loss of appetite. Read more here.

5. How is ankylosing spondylitis treated?

Treatment for ankylosing spondylitis is tailored to the individual, as there is a wide variety in how AS affects different people. Treatment for AS aims to achieve several goals, including reducing symptoms, maintaining movement in the spine, and decreasing the complications that AS could cause. Read more here.

6. How can I prevent spine damage from ankylosing spondylitis?

It’s important to begin treatment for AS as soon as you are diagnosed. The longer that you go without treatment, the more damage can be caused to your spine. Because ankylosing spondylitis (AS) most often affects the spine, it can cause complications to the spine including spinal fracture, kyphosis, and stenosis. AS causes chronic inflammation in the vertebral joints and in the points where tendons and ligaments attach to the joints, called entheses. This chronic inflammation wears away at the bone of the joints. As the body works to replace the lost bone, it can create excess bone, leading to a fusing of the joint. Read more here.

7. What is the ankylosing spondylitis gene?

Research has demonstrated that there are genetic factors that play a role in the development of AS. Having family members with the disease increases your risk of developing it, and research suggests that over 90% of the risk of AS relies on a person’s genes. One of the most well-known genetic markers is HLA-B27. However, HLA-B27 only accounts for about 20% of the genetic risk. Other genetic factors that have been identified include ERAP 1, IL-12, IL-17, and IL-23. One gene – TLR7 – seems to be a marker for susceptibility in males but has a protective effect in females. More research is needed to understand all the genetic factors and how they react to different environmental factors. Read more here.

8. How can people manage ankylosing spondylitis?

Living with a chronic condition like ankylosing spondylitis (AS) impacts many areas of a person’s life. While each person with AS has their own unique experience, and the severity and progression of AS varies widely from person to person, AS can affect a person’s life dramatically. Doing things like taking your medication, eating healthy food, staying active, quitting smoking, and managing stress can all help AS symptoms. Read more here.

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