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What is Ankylosing Spondylitis?


What Is Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS)?

Ankylosing spondylitis (pronounced ank-kih-low-sing spon-dill-eye-tiss) is an inflammatory type of arthritis that can cause pain and stiffness:

  • In the spinal joints
  • In the joints between the spine and hip
  • In other joints, too, more commonly in the lower body

It’s important to learn as much as you can about your condition. That includes understanding your symptoms and how AS affects your body. Knowing more can help you talk with your doctor about the treatment that’s right for you.

What happens when you have AS?

Normally, your immune system works to protect your body from foreign substances like bacteria, viruses, and germs. While the exact cause is unknown, when you have AS, your immune system attacks healthy tissue and cells in your body. That’s why it’s called an autoimmune disease.

What are the symptoms?

The symptoms of AS vary from one person to another. They may include pain and stiffness in the:

  • Lower back (sometimes worse during the night or in the morning)
  • Hips
  • Shoulders
  • Ribs
  • Neck

These symptoms sometimes get better with a warm shower or light exercise.

You might have spine stiffness in the morning and during the night. You might also feel pain and stiffness in other joints, including:

  • Heels
  • Knees
  • Ankles
  • Hands and feet

Some people only have flare-ups once in a while. For others, symptoms may last more than 3 months. Symptoms may be severe and affect several joints.

Who gets AS?

Nearly half a million people in the US are affected by AS

In many cases, symptoms start in the young adult years.

In many cases symptoms of AS start in the young adult years

The condition is about 2 times more common in males than females.

Active ankylosing spondylitis is about 2 times more common in males than females

AS is a chronic (long-term) disease

AS is a chronic, or long-term, disease. The pain and stiffness symptoms can worsen over time. That’s why early diagnosis and treatment is important. While there is no cure, there are medicines that can help relieve these symptoms.


Talking With Your Doctor

Your doctor needs to know about your symptoms and how they affect your everyday activities. Be open and honest with your doctor about your symptoms.

Here are a few suggestions:

  • Write down the symptoms you’ve been having and make note of any new ones. Has anything changed since your last doctor visit?
  • Go into detail: If something hurts, describe how bad it is
  • Write down how symptoms affect your ability to do everyday activities
  • Make a list of the medicines you take, previous medical procedures, and your disease history

Take these notes with you to your next doctor’s appointment. Don’t forget to talk with your doctor about your treatment goals and the types of activities you’d like to get back to doing.