Ankylosing spondylitis

Ankylosing spondylitis is an on-going condition which principally affects the joints of the back and pelvis. It is commonest in whites, with males outnumbering females four to one. Females have less severe disease. It most frequently becomes symptomatic between the ages of 20 and 40. 90% of people with ankylosing spondylitis are positive on a blood test known as "HLA-B27", or B27 for short, but the reverse is not true -- only a small minority of those positive for B27 will ever develop ankylosing spondylitis or its associated conditions.

Symptoms to look out for

Early morning lower back stiffness
Pain on walking or bending

Tests for ankylosing spondylitis

X-rays of the lower back may show characteristic changes to the spine
Blood tests are likely to be positive for B27

If you have ankylosing spondylitis you will usually be referred to a rheumatologist, a doctor who specializes in diseases of joints

Advanced ankylosing spondylitis

If you have advanced ankylosing spondylitis, your doctor will be alert for complications such as:

Fibrosis of the lungs
Disease of the aorta, the large artery which takes blood away from the heart
Amyloidosis, deposition of protein called amyloid in soft body tissues

Treatment of ankylosing spondylitis

Treatment consists of medication and exercises.

Medication is taken to reduce pain and stiffness, and may consist of

NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs)
Oral corticosteroids

Support groups

The Spondylitis Association of America has an excellent, comprehensive, website.

The National Ankylosing Spondylitis Society (of the United Kingdom) has useful leaflets and a network of 100 branches providing evening supervised group physiotherapy. Membership 12/year. An informative guidebook in PDF format is available.

National Ankylosing Spondylitis Society
PO Box 179
East Sussex   TN20 6ZL
Tel +44 (01435) 873527
Fax +44 (01435) 873027

The Arthritis and Rheumatism Council (UK) raises and distributes money for research

Arthritis and Rheumatism Council
Copeman House
St Mary's Court
St Mary's Gate
Derbyshire  S41 7TD

Arthritis Care (UK) may be able to help with social and welfare assistance

Arthritis Care
18-20 Stephenson Way
London  NW1 2HD

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