What is Ankylosing Spondylitis?

Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) is an inflammatory disease predominantly affecting the sacroiliac joint – the connection between the spine and pelvis – as well as the spine itself.  Mostly affecting young adults, AS results in stiffness and pain in the spinal area, and can eventually result in fusion of some (or all) spinal joints for many sufferers.

Ankylosing spondylitis shares many features of other rheumatological such as psoriasis, inflammatory bowel disease and reactive arthritis, and is thus often considered as a possible diagnosis for patients presenting early symptoms of these other diseases. These diseases are often grouped together and called seronegative arthritis (as opposed to rheumatoid arthritis, which is seropositive arthritis).  The seronegative diseases can all lead to back inflammation, or spondylitis.

  • AS is insidious, meaning symptoms present in a slow and gradual manner, with eventual harmful effects.
  • AS is chronic, meaning it is persistent and long-lasting, providing no predictability of possible periods of relapse or remission.
  • AS is systemic, meaning it affects many of the body’s systems (bones, joints, eyes, gastro-intestinal tract, neurological).

There is no known cure for ankylosing spondylitis, but pain and overall discomfort can be managed with drug therapy, and regular movement and exercise – it is one of the few diseases whose symptoms worsen with inactivity.

Learn more about AS in this section - scroll down or click a topic at left.