What is ankylosing spondylitis?

Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) causes chronic pain in the back area and can lead to fusion of the spine, causing a curved, non-flexible back.

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AS is an inflammatory disease in the arthritis family. It mainly causes painful inflammation of the spine, but other joints might be affected too. Unlike most other types of arthritis, AS usually develops in the early adulthood.

What happens in ankylosing spondylitis?

The condition is known to progress over time and can cause devastating, chronic pain and stiffness in the back, pelvis and in joints such as shoulders, hips, ribs, heels, hands and feet. Not uncommon is also problems with inflammation in the eyes, known as iritis. Contrary to other types of arthritis, AS is often diagnosed in the early adulthood and there is a tendency for men to get it a little more often than women.

In the more severe cases of AS, the body can, over time, produce new bone as an attempt to fuse and heal the spine, which unfortunately leads to stiffness, inflexibility and often a curved-forward back. However, this “spinal fusion” is not seen nearly as much as earlier, because of the advanced treatments available today.

Not everyone will experience severe symptoms as they vary greatly from person to person. Some patients “only” experience reoccurring back pain and slight discomfort for short periods of time where others are experiencing chronic, debilitating pain.

There is no cure for AS, but it is possible to relieve pain through treatments such as physiotherapy, medication and lifestyle changes.

For more information you can go to the Ankylosing Spondylitis Forum.

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