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What You Should Know About Ankylosing Spondylitis

Medically reviewed by Mae Charisse Antalan, MD · General Practitioner

Written by Tracey Romero · Updated Feb 16, 2023

What You Should Know About Ankylosing Spondylitis

What Is Ankylosing Spondylitis?

Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) is a kind of arthritis which affects the spine. It causes the bones in your spine to fuse together. The fusing will make the spine less flexible and make it difficult to move around. AS usually first appears during the teenage years. It is a condition that is more common in men than in women.

Symptoms of Ankylosing Spondylitis

What are the symptoms of ankylosing spondylitis?

The earliest signs of this condition are stiffness and pain usually originating on your lower back. Common signs also include pain in the neck and feeling tired.

The pain is usually worse after rest, and improves with movement. Pain may last for months and usually develops gradually.

The back may become less flexible and cause pain on bending forward. It may cause “hunchback” posture over time

Symptoms may disappear after a while and then come back. In severe cases, the symptoms may continue to get worse.

The areas that are commonly affected are the following:

  • The joint located at the base of the spine.
  • The bones on your lower back.
  • Areas where the ligaments and tendons are connected to the bones.
  • The cartilage that connects your ribs and your breastbone.
  • The joints located in your hips and shoulder.

There are plenty of things that can cause pain in the lower back to develop. In many cases, the pain will go away on its own. If the pain in your back or your buttocks developed slowly, or if the pain is noticeably worse in the morning or in the second part of the night, then it may be AS. Always consult with a medical professional to determine your condition.

Causes and Risk Factors of Ankylosing Spondylitis

There is no specific known cause of AS. However experts believe that genetics may play a part. It has been found that those who develop AS have the HLA-B27 gene.

There are several risk factors connected with AS:

  • Men have a higher chance of developing AS compared to women.
  • The onset is likely to take place during the teenage years and early adulthood.
  • People with AS have a certain gene but not everyone with the HLA-B27 gene will develop the condition.

Complications of Ankylosing Spondylitis

Fusion of Bones

In severe cases of AS, new bone formations will grow as part of the body’s efforts to heal itself. The new bones will fuse the bones of the vertebrae, which will result in loss of flexibility. The fusion of bones may also affect the rib cage, and restrict breathing.

Eye Inflammation

Other complications include eye inflammation. This is one of the most common complications that you may experience. This can result in eye pain and sensitivity to light.

Thin Bones

Your bones may become thinner during the first stages of AS, which can weaken your vertebrae. As your vertebrae get weakened, your posture may become stooped. In the long run, the spine may get injured because of the stooped posture.

Inflamed Aorta

Perhaps the most serious complication that AS can cause is its effect on the heart. It can inflame the aorta, which is the largest artery in the body. This can result in disrupting the shape of the heart and affecting its function.

Ankylosing Spondylitis Diagnosis

The problem with detecting AS is there are many people who suffer from back pain, which is its main symptom. Back pain may be due to many causes, so AS may not immediately be considered. This means a person can suffer from AS undetected for a long time.

Another hurdle in detecting AS early on is there is no single test that can be used to identify if a person is suffering from this condition. It’s even trickier to detect this condition in women because it is more common in men.

Doctors will analyze your symptoms, perform physical examinations, and run blood tests. While joint damage may not appear on imaging tests, MRI or X-rays can also be used.

Ankylosing Spondylitis Treatments

Surgery can help some people with severe AS, but the best way to fight it is to stay active.

By engaging in physical activities, you can prevent the fusing of the bones. Frequent and regular exercise will also help you to keep a straight posture, in addition to strengthening your body.

Working with a physical therapist can also be helpful in maintaining good posture and keeping your muscles strong and tight.

The use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can be helpful in treating AS but you should be aware that they cause side effects like bleeding in your stomach and heart issues. Always consult with your doctor before trying new medication.

The best way to treat AS is to make changes to your lifestyle. Try to be more physically active and also maintain a good weight, so the joints in your body will not be under too much stress.

Key Takeaway

Ankylosing spondylitis causes the bones in your spine to fuse together. It can be a serious health issue if nothing is done to counter its effect on the body. With a few lifestyle changes, this condition can be effectively prevented and countered.

Learn more about Arthritis here.


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Medically reviewed by

Mae Charisse Antalan, MD

General Practitioner

Written by Tracey Romero · Updated Feb 16, 2023

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