Ankylosing Spondylitis

There are over 100 diseases under the umbrella of Arthritis, which means joint inflammation. Symptoms of arthritis that patients complain of include joint stiffness, swelling, pain and tenderness. Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis that causes back pain. Another common for of arthritis that afflicts people with back pain is ankylosing spondylitis. Ankylosing spondylitis is a rare condition, that that typically affects the spine only, and causes stiffening and inflammation of the ligaments and joints of the spine. Ankylosing spondylitis is rare, compared to other types of arthritis, and predominantly affects the spine. Ankylosing Spondylitis typically begins in the sacroiliac joints, and may progress to affect the joints further up the spine. In the most severe cases, segments of the spine may become fused in a rigid stooped or upright position. Ankylosing Spondylitis is one of several conditions referred to a spondyloarthropathies (inflammatory joint diseases of the vertebral column.) Other spondyloarthropathies conditions include reactive arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, and arthritis with inflammatory bowel disease.

While most form of arthritis include a degeneration of the joints and end of bones, Ankylosing Spondylitis primarily affects the ligaments and tendons, causing inflammation to these supportive structures. The ligaments and joints of the spine may become inflamed, causing stiffness and back pain. The joints, tendons, and ligaments in the knees and shoulders may also become inflamed due to this condition. While conditions such as osteoarthritis is more common to older individuals, people suffering from Ankylosing Spondylitis are more likely to be males between the ages of 15 and 35. This disease may also affect women and children and people of all ages, though at a lower rate and present with different symptoms.

There is no clear cut cause of Ankylosing Spondylitis, though the individuals who are affected by this condition are typically males who express the express the HLA-B27 genotype. Individuals with the HLA-B27 genotype are predisposed to developing Ankylosing Spondylitis, though only 5% actually to contract the condition. Males and people with a family history of the condition are more likely to contract this condition.

Ankylosing Spondylitis is classified as an inflammatory form of arthritis. Other inflammatory forms of arthritis include reactive arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, and arthritis with inflammatory bowel disease. All of these inflammatory diseases mentioned above can affect and cause destruction to the joints of the spine, though the joints of the hands, feet, arms, and legs may be affected as well.

Like other inflammatory forms of arthritis such as rheumatoid arthritis, the symptoms and severity of Ankylosing Spondylitis may come and go. This condition is likely to affect the ligaments, tendons, and joints in the sacrum and lumbar spine first, and then spread to joints in the limbs and upper back. The severity of symptoms may also vary on the time of day and your activities:
  • The symptoms (stiffness and pain) may be worse after some period of inactivity, such as waking up for a nap or a full night's sleep.
  • The stiffness and pain typically gets better with activity or exercise.
  • Back pain, at the onset of the condition, may be isolated to the sacroiliac and lumbar joints. The pain and other symptoms of Ankylosing Spondylitis may eventually progress to the thoracic spine and upwards.