Ankylosing spondylitis


Ankylosing spondylitis is a long-term disease that involves inflammation of the joints between the spinal bones, and the joints between the spine and pelvis.

These joints become swollen and inflamed. Over time, the affected spinal bones join together.

Alternative Names

Rheumatoid spondylitis; Spondylitis; Spondylarthropathy


The cause of ankylosing spondylitis is unknown, but genes seem to play a role.

The disease most often begins between ages 20 and 40, but it may begin before age 10. It affects more males than females.



The disease starts with low back pain that comes and goes.

You may lose motion or movement in the lower spine. You may not be able to fully expand your chest because the joints between the ribs are involved.

Fatigue is also a common symptom.

Other, less common symptoms include:

Exams and Tests

Tests may include:


Your doctor may prescribe nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to reduce swelling and pain.

Different medicines are prescribed to calm swelling and the immune system:

Surgery may be done if pain or joint damage is severe.

Exercises can help improve posture and breathing. Lying flat on your back at night can help maintain a normal posture.

Outlook (Prognosis)

The course of the disease is hard to predict. Symptoms may come and go at any time. Most people are able to function unless the hips are severely involved.

Rarely, people may have problems with:

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your health care provider if:


Inman RD. The spoondyloarthropathies. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011: chap 273.

Sidiropoulos PI, Hatemi G, Song IH, et al. Evidence-based recommendations for the management of ankylosing spondylitis: systematic literature search of the 3E Initiative in Rheumatology involving a broad panel of experts and practising rheumatologists. Rheumatology (Oxford). 2008. 47(3):355-61.

Review Date: 6/15/2012
Reviewed By: Ariel D. Teitel, MD, MBA, Clinical Associate Professor of Medicine, NYU Langone Medical Center. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.
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