Ankylosing spondylitis (occasionally referred to as “AS”) is
a type of arthritis in which chronic inflammation causes stiffness and
pain in the spine. The name ankylosing spondylitis comes from the Greek
words “ankylos,” meaning joint stiffening, and “spondylo,”
meaning vertebra. In advanced cases, the bones of the spine can fuse together,
causing stiffness and a hunched posture. In some patients, ankylosing
spondylitis can affect joints beyond the spine, like the shoulders, ribs,
hips, knees, and feet.
Ankylosing spondylitis belongs to a cluster of inflammatory disorders called
spondyloarthritides. Other conditions in this group include psoriatic arthritis, reactive
arthritis/Reiter's syndrome, enteropathic arthritis, and enthesitis-related
idiopathic juvenile arthritis.
These disorders have similarities, but they also have differences between
them. The most obvious symptom of ankylosing spondylitis is inflammation
of the sacroiliac (SI) joints, where the spine joins the pelvis.
Ankylosing spondylitis is a chronic condition with periodic flare-ups followed
by stretches of remission in which symptoms improve or ameliorate. Although
there is no known cure for AS, it is not life-threatening, and treatments
can be successful in decreasing the severity of the condition.
What Causes Ankylosing Spondylitis?
The cause of ankylosing spondylitis is unknown, but genes and environment
seem to play a pivotal role. The majority of patients diagnosed with ankylosing
spondylitis are Caucasian males under the age of 45, but women can also
be diagnosed with the condition. Most people with ankylosing spondylitis
are genetically predisposed to the disease, and have a gene called HLA-B27.
This does not guarantee a person will be diagnosed with AS; sometimes
infections and intestinal bacteria can trigger the disease as well.
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