What is ankylosing spondylitis?
spondylitis (say "ang-kill-LOH-sing spawn-duh-LY-tus") is a long-term form of
arthritis that most often occurs in the
spine . It can cause pain and stiffness in the low
back, middle back, buttocks, and neck, and sometimes in other areas such as the
hips, chest wall, or heels. It can also cause swelling and limited motion in
these areas. This disease is more common in men than in women.
There is no cure, but treatment can control symptoms and prevent the
disease from getting worse in most cases. Most people are able to do their
normal daily activities and can still work.
This disease can cause
several other problems. You may have redness and pain in the colored part of
your eye (iritis). You also may have trouble breathing as your
upper body begins to curve and your chest wall begins to stiffen.
What causes ankylosing spondylitis?
The cause is
unknown, but it may run in families. Most people with ankylosing spondylitis
are born with a certain
gene, HLA-B27. But having this gene does not mean that
you will get the disease.
Research suggests that bacterial
infections and your environment may have roles in causing this disease.
What are the symptoms?
This disease causes mild to
severe pain in the low back and buttocks that is often worse in early morning.
Some people have more pain in other areas, such as the hips or heels. The pain
usually gets better slowly as you move around and are active. Ankylosing
spondylitis most often begins anywhere from the teenage years through the 30s.
It gets worse slowly over time as swelling of the ligaments,
tendons, and joints of the spine causes the bones of the spine to
join, or fuse , together. This leads to less range of movement in the neck and low
As the spine fuses and stiffens, the neck and low back lose
their normal curve. The middle back curves outward. This can keep you in a
bent-forward position and may make it hard for you to
As the small joints that connect the ribs and collarbone to
the breastbone get inflamed, you may find that it?s harder for you to breathe.
Other parts of the body, such as your eyes and your other joints, may also
swell. Sometimes the disease affects the lungs, the heart valves, the digestive
tract, and the major blood vessel called the aorta.
How is ankylosing spondylitis diagnosed?
signs of this disease-dull pain in the low back and buttocks-are common. Your
doctor will ask about your symptoms and if they have become worse over time.
Your doctor will also ask if you have a family history of this joint disease or
others like it.