What is Ankylosing Spondylitis?

Ankylosing spondylitis is an inflammatory disease that can cause some of the vertebrae in the spine to fuse together. This reduces the flexibility in the spine and can result in a hunched-forward posture and shortness of breath (if the ribs are affected). Inflammation also can occur in other parts of your body — most commonly, the eyes.

Symptoms

Early signs and symptoms typically begin in early adulthood. They may include pain and stiffness in the lower back and hips, especially in the morning and after periods of inactivity. Over time, symptoms may worsen, improve, or stop completely at irregular intervals.

The most commonly affected areas are:

  • The joint between the base of the spine and pelvis
  • Vertebrae of the lower back
  • Places where tendons and ligaments attach to bones, primarily in your spine, but sometimes along the back of the heel as well
  • Cartilage between the breastbone and ribs
  • Hip and shoulder joints

Treatment Options

There is no cure for ankylosing spondylitis, but treatments can effectively reduce pain and symptoms, and may prevent its progression. Treatment is most successful before the disease causes irreversible damage to the joints.

In most cases, treatment involves a combination of:

  • Medication
  • Exercise
  • Physical therapy
  • Self-help measures
  • In some cases, surgery may be used to repair some of the joint damage caused by the disease.