Incidence is approximately 1 in 667 people
Ankylosing spondylitis is a form of inflammatory arthritis characterized by inflammation of the spine and major joints.
The exact cause of ankylosing spondylitis is not known, although it has been observed to run in families. It is also considerably more common in men than women; particularly for individuals aged between 20 to 40 years.
Symptoms and diagnosis
Symptoms appear gradually, and the disease progresses considerably before they become specific for ankylosing spondylitis. On average, a decade elapses following the onset of ankylosing spondylitis before diagnosis is reached.
The symptoms of ankylosing spondylitis include:
· Chronic pain and rigidity in the spine;
· Pain and swelling of joints, particularly in children; and
· Inflammation of the eye, in a small number of cases.
There is no test which can be used to diagnose AS definitively. A physical and x-ray examination may indicate characteristic spinal changes. However, the drawback is that these spinal changes may take years to become noticeable.
During periods of acute inflammation, blood tests may indicate an increase in the concentration of certain proteins.
Treatment for ankylosing spondylitis is aimed at alleviating pain in the back and joints, promoting free motion through the joints, and preventing or correcting spinal deformations.
Certain non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can be used to reduce swelling of the joints, therefore assisting movement. Exercises can be recommended to retain posture and freedom of movement, including stretching and deep breathing.