Ankylosing spondylitis or AS, is a form of arthritis that primarily affects the spine, although other joints can become involved. It causes inflammation of the spinal joints (vertebrae) that can lead to severe, chronic pain and discomfort.
This fusing makes the spine less flexible and can result in a hunched-forward posture. If ribs are affected, it can be difficult to breathe deeply.
Ankylosing spondylitis affects men more often than women. Signs and symptoms typically begin in early adulthood.
The symptoms of AS can vary, but usually involve:
- Back pain and stiffness
- Pain and swelling in other parts of the body – caused by inflammation of the joints and inflammation where a tendon joins a bone
- Extreme tiredness
Ankylosing spondylitis has no known specific cause, though genetic factors seem to be involved. In particular, people who have a gene called HLA-B27 are at a greatly increased risk of developing ankylosing spondylitis. However, only some people with the gene develop the condition.
A number of treatments can slow down and treat pain and stiffness. Exercise and close attention to the posture are just as important to keep the spine mobile and help them to live a normal life.
- Drug Treatments – painkillers, such as paracetamol and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen, are usually the first choice of treatment for ankylosing spondylitis.
- Biological Therapies – newer treatment that can be very effective for some people with ankylosing spondylitis and related conditions.
- Steroids – steroids can be used as a short-term treatment for flare-ups. They’re usually given as an injection into a swollen joint or as a slow-release injection into a muscle.
- Physical Therapies – physiotherapy is a very important part of the treatment for ankylosing spondylitis.
- Surgery – most people with ankylosing spondylitis don’t need surgery, although some people may need a hip or knee replacement if these joints are badly affected.
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