About Ankylosing Spondylitis
Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) is a form of arthritis that mainly affects the spine by causing inflammation of the spinal joints (called vertebrae), which can lead to severe and long term pain. AS can also cause inflammation, pain and stiffness in other areas of the body including the shoulders, hips, ribs, heels, hands and feet. In some advanced cases, AS can create new bone formation on the spine, causing the vertebrae to grow together in a fixed and immobile position.
The exact cause of AS is unknown, however, genetics appear to play a key role. Certain proteins created by the body combined with certain genes and environmental factors appear to increase the risk of developing AS.
Unlike with other forms of arthritis, AS often occurs in younger people, between ages 17-35. AS is also more common in men.
- Average age of onset of AS is between 17 and 35 years
- It is the most overlooked cause of long term back pain in young adults
- AS can damage other parts of the body including the hips, shoulders, eyes, heart and lungs
Progression of Symptoms2
The progression of AS varies greatly from person to person, but the following is a typical course of AS symptom development.
- First symptoms are frequent pain and stiffness in the lower back and buttocks
- Over the first few weeks or months, pain is usually felt only on one side and is spread out
- Pain and stiffness are worse in the morning and during the night
- A mild fever, loss of appetite and general discomfort may be experienced early on
- Pain starts to become more wide spread and starts to last longer
- Over the course of months to years, stiffness and pain start to spread up the spine into the neck
- Pain can spread to the ribs, shoulder blades, hips, thighs and heels as well
- People with AS may start to become easily tired as the body spends energy to deal with the inflammation