ANKYLOSING SPONDYLITIS (AS) is a form of chronic inflammation of the spine and the sacroiliac joints. Chronic inflammation in these areas causes pain and stiffness in and around the spine. Over time, chronic spinal inflammation can lead to a complete cementing together (fusion) of the vertebrae, a process referred to as ankylosis. Ankylosis leads to loss of mobility of the spine and the condition known as bamboo spine.
Ankylosing spondylitis is also a systemic disease which can affect other tissues, throughout the body. Accordingly, it can cause inflammation or injury to other joints away from the spine, as well as to other organs, such as the eyes, heart, lungs, and kidneys. Ankylosing spondylitis shares many features with several other arthritis conditions such as psoriatic arthritis, reactive arthritis (formerly called Reiter’s disease), and arthritis associated with Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Each of these arthritic conditions can cause disease and inflammation in the spine, other joints, eyes, skin, mouth, and various organs. In view of their similarities and tendency to cause inflammation of the spine, these conditions are collectively referred to as “Spondylo arthropathies”. Ankylosing spondylitis is considered one of the many rheumatic diseases because it can cause symptoms involving muscles and joints.
Men are affected more than women by a ratio about of 3:1. In women, joints away from the spine are more frequently affected than in men. Ankylosing spondylitis affects all age groups, including children. When it affects children, it is referred to as Juvenile ankylosing spondylitis.
It is important to note that the course of Ankylosing spondylitis varies greatly from person to person. So too can the onset of symptoms. The most common age of onset of symptoms is in the second and third decades of life.