Ankylosing Spondylitis


Ankylosing spondylosis is a form of progressive arthritis, which is related to chronic inflammation of the joints. This can lead to joint stiffening. The name comes from the Greek words “ankylos,” which means joint stiffening, and “spondylo,” which means vertebra. Spondylitis is spinal inflammation.


How common is ankylosing spondylitis?

In the U.S., 129 of every 100,000 people have ankylosing spondylitis. The prevalence rate is around 0.1% in the U.S.


What structures are affected by ankylosing spondylosis and spondylitis?

Ankylosing spondylitis affects the spine, as well as joints outside the spine, such as the shoulders, knees, hips, and ribs. The main joint affected is the sacroiliac (SI) joint, which is located at the region where the spine joins the pelvis. It can often affect ligaments and tendons, which attach to bones. In rare incidences, the organs are affected, such as the bowels, heart, lungs, and eyes.


What symptoms are associated with ankylosing spondylitis?

The symptoms associated with ankylosing spondylitis include back pain, reduced spinal mobility, and stiffness. This condition also can lead to persistent aching of the joints. Ankylosing spondylitis pain affects more men than women, and usually appears between the ages of 15 and 45 years.


What causes ankylosing spondylitis?

Ankylosing spondylitis is an autoimmune disease. This means that the body’s immune system becomes confused and attacks the healthy tissue, such as the joints. This can lead to much pain and inflammation. People with this condition have new bone growth in the spine, which can lead to stiffness of the back and neck. While the exact mechanism that leads to ankylosing spondylosis is not clear, genes are thought to contribute to this problem.

Scientists have discovered a gene called HLA-B27, that is in around 90% of Caucasians with ankylosing spondylosis. This suggest an important genetic link in the disease. In addition, some studies have found that bacteria could possibly influence the disease and its development.


Who is affected by ankylosing spondylitis?

Around half a million people in the U.S. are affected by ankylosing spondylitis. This disease could develop in childhood, affected more boys than girls. In addition, children with the condition have hip and knee pain first, and then later on, back pain occurs as the disease progresses to the spine.


How is ankylosing spondylosis diagnosed?

If the doctor suspects you have ankylosing spondylosis, he will conduct a medical history, do a physical examination, take some x-rays, run blood tests, and order imaging scans, such as MRI and CT.


How is ankylosing spondylitis treated?

Although there may be no cure for ankylosing spondylosis; treatment focuses on pain management, reduction of complications, and improvement in quality of life. The options include:

  • Site Specific Steroid Injections – The Illinois Pain physician may inject an anti-inflammatory steroid agent.
  • Physical therapy – This can provide many strategies for dealing with pain. Benefits of physical therapy include aerobic exercise, stretching exercises, posturing education, pain management, proper sleep positioning, and use of adaptive equipment and assistive devices.
  • Stem Cell Therapy – Stem cell therapy may be effective for ankylosing spondylitis.
  • Medications – Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory agents are used to decrease inflammation, provide pain relief, and improve mobility. Short course of corticosteroids may also help provide relief from ankylosing spondylitis. Analgesics are used to give pain relief as well. Anti-rheumatic drugs are new medications that work by controlling the immune system.