Ankylosing Spondylitis

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Ankylosing Spondylitis is a form of chronic inflammation of the spine and the sacroiliac joints. The sacroiliac joints are located in the low back where the bone directly above the tailbone meets the bones on either side of the upper buttocks. Chronic inflammation in these areas causes pain and stiffness in and around the spine. Over time, chronic spinal inflammation can lead to a complete cementing together of the vertebrae, a process referred to as ankylosis. Ankylosis leads to loss of mobility of the spine.

This is also a systemic rheumatic disease, meaning it can affect other tissues throughout the body. Accordingly, it can cause inflammation in or injury to other joints away from the spine, as well as other organs, such as the eyes, heart, lungs, and kidneys. It shares many features with several other arthritis conditions, such as psoriatic arthritis, reactive arthritis, and arthritis associated with Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis. Each of these arthritic conditions can cause disease and inflammation in the spine, other joints, eyes, skin, mouth, and various organs. In view of their similarities and tendency to cause inflammation of the spine, these conditions are collectively referred to as"spondyloarthropathies."

Ankylosing spondylitis is two to three times more common in males than in females. In women, joints away from the spine are more frequently affected than in men. This disease affects all age groups, including children. The most common age of onset of symptoms is in the 20’ or 30’s.


  • low-back pain
  • stiffness and limited motion in the low back
  • hip pain and stiffness
  • limited expansion of the chest
  • limited range of motion, especially involving spine & hips
  • joint pain & joint swelling in the shoulders, knees, & ankles
  • neck pain
  • heel pain
  • chronic stooping to relieve symptoms
  • fatigue
  • fever
  • loss of appetite
  • weight loss
  • eye inflammation

  • Causes:
    The tendency to develop ankylosing spondylitis is believed to be genetically inherited, and nearly 90% of patients with it are born with the HLA-B27 gene. Blood tests have been developed to detect the HLA-B27 gene marker and have furthered our understanding of the relationship between HLA-B27 and this disease. The HLA-B27 gene appears only to increase the tendency of developing it, while some additional factor(s), perhaps environmental, are necessary for the disease to appear or become expressed. For example, while 7% of the United States population have the HLA-B27 gene, only 1% of the population actually have this disease. Even among HLA-B27 positive individuals, the risk of developing it appears to be further related to heredity. In HLA-B27-positive individuals who have relatives with the disease, their risk of developing ankylosing spondylitis is six times greater than for those whose relatives do not have it.

    Recently, two more genes have been identified that are associated with this disease. These genes are called ARTS1 and IL23R. These genes seem to play a role in influencing immune function. It is anticipated that by understanding the effects of each of these known genes researchers will make significant progress in discovering a cure for ankylosing spondylitis.

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