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Ankylosing Spondylitis

A form of arthritis that affects the spine, the sacroiliac joints, and sometimes the hips and shoulders. In severe cases, the joints of the spine fuse and the spine becomes rigid.

PubMed Health Glossary
(Source: NIH - National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases)

About Ankylosing Spondylitis

Ankylosing spondylitis is a form of progressive arthritis due to chronic inflammation of the joints in the spine. Its name comes from the Greek words "ankylos," meaning stiffening of a joint, and "spondylo," meaning vertebra. Spondylitis refers to inflammation of the spine or one or more of the adjacent structures of the vertebrae.

The hallmark of ankylosing spondylitis is "sacroiliitis," or inflammation of the sacroiliac (SI) joints, where the spine joins the pelvis.

In some people, ankylosing spondylitis can affect joints outside of the spine, like the shoulders, ribs, hips, knees, and feet. It can also affect entheses, which are sites where the tendons and ligaments attach to the bones. It is possible that it can affect other organs, such as the eyes, bowel, and—more rarely—the heart and lungs.

Although many people with ankylosing spondylitis have mild episodes of back pain that come and go, others have severe, ongoing pain accompanied by loss of flexibility of the spine. In the most severe cases, long-term inflammation leads to calcification that causes two or more bones of the spine to fuse. Fusion can also stiffen the rib cage, resulting in restricted lung capacity and function. NIH - National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases

What works? Research summarized

Evidence reviews

Methotrexate for ankylosing spondylitis

Researchers in the Cochrane Collaboration conducted a review about the effect of the drug methotrexate in people with ankylosing spondylitis (AS). They identified three studies, which included 116 participants, that met the inclusion criteria.

Adalimumab, etanercept and infliximab for the treatment of ankylosing spondylitis: a systematic review and economic evaluation

Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) is a chronic inflammatory condition (a member of the spondyloarthropathies) affecting the spine, sacroiliac joints and peripheral joints, causing pain, stiffness and disability. Diagnosis is problematic and current UK incidence and prevalence data are uncertain. Currently, there is no standard or effective therapy for AS. Conventional management is composed of physiotherapy, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs). None of these agents has been shown to alter the progression of the disease, but they may offer palliation of pain and symptoms. Adalimumab, etanercept and infliximab target the activation of tumour necrosis factor-α (TNF-α) and its subsequent activation of downstream inflammatory processes, and as such have the potential to offer symptom palliation as well as altering disease progression.

Physiotherapy for ankylosing spondylitis

To answer this question, scientists working with the Cochrane Musculoskeletal Group found and analyzed 11 studies testing over 700 people who had ankylosing spondylitis (AS). Studies compared people who did exercises at home, went to group exercise programs, went to spa or balneotherapy, performed different exercise programs or had no therapy at all. These studies provide the best evidence we have today.

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Summaries for consumers

Methotrexate for ankylosing spondylitis

Researchers in the Cochrane Collaboration conducted a review about the effect of the drug methotrexate in people with ankylosing spondylitis (AS). They identified three studies, which included 116 participants, that met the inclusion criteria.

Physiotherapy for ankylosing spondylitis

To answer this question, scientists working with the Cochrane Musculoskeletal Group found and analyzed 11 studies testing over 700 people who had ankylosing spondylitis (AS). Studies compared people who did exercises at home, went to group exercise programs, went to spa or balneotherapy, performed different exercise programs or had no therapy at all. These studies provide the best evidence we have today.

Sulfasalazine for ankylosing spondylitis

We conducted a review of the effect of sulfasalazine for people with ankylosing spondylitis. After searching for all relevant studies up to November 2013, we found 11 studies involving 895 people. Our findings are summarised below.

See all (11)

Terms to know

Antibodies
A protein produced by the immune system in response to a foreign substance such as a virus or bacterium.
Arthritis
A general term for conditions that cause inflammation (swelling) of the joints and surrounding tissues. Some forms of arthritis may occur simultaneously with osteoporosis and Paget's disease.
Inflammation
Redness, swelling, pain, and/or a feeling of heat in an area of the body. This is a protective reaction to injury, disease, or irritation of the tissues.
Sacroiliac Joint
The joints where the spine and pelvis attach. The sacroiliac joints are often affected by types of arthritis referred to as spondyloarthropathies.
Spine
The bones, muscles, tendons, and other tissues that reach from the base of the skull to the tailbone. The spine encloses the spinal cord and the fluid surrounding the spinal cord. Also called backbone, spinal column, and vertebral column.
Spondylitis
The inflammation of a vertebra.
Spondyloarthropathy
A form of arthritis that primarily affects the spine and sacroiliac joints.
Vertebra
The individual bones that make up the spinal column.

More about Ankylosing Spondylitis

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Other terms to know: See all 8
Antibodies, Arthritis, Inflammation

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