Ankylosing Spondylitis

Last Updated: August 16 2022

Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) is a type of spondyloarthritis characterized by chronic inflammation of the spine and pelvis. It can lead to pain, stiffness, and fusion of vertebrae and other joints. Spondyloarthritis (SpA) is a group of inflammatory disorders that includes AS, but also other inflammatory diseases.

What is ankylosing spondylitis?

Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) is a type of arthritis in which inflammatory processes lead to stiffness and fusion of vertebrae and other joints. Because AS involves axial (spine) changes detected with radiographic imaging, it can also be called radiographic axial spondyloarthritis.

What are the main symptoms of ankylosing spondylitis?
How is ankylosing spondylitis diagnosed?

Diagnosis of AS is based upon a combination of clinical, laboratory, and imaging findings characteristic of the disease alongside the exclusion of other relevant diagnoses such as chronic mechanical back pain, fibromyalgia, or sacroiliac joint infection.[3]

What are some of the main medical treatments for ankylosing spondylitis?

Drugs that limit inflammation, such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), or if necessary, tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-alpha) inhibitors or interleukin 17 (IL-17) inhibitors. Physical therapy is often prescribed to improve balance and mobility.

Have any supplements been studied for ankylosing spondylitis?

Although some research has been conducted, there isn’t much conclusive evidence. One small trial found that high doses of omega-3 fatty acids reduced AS disease activity, and another found that nanocurcumin reduced the expression of inflammatory markers in people with AS. High serum Vitamin D is correlated with lower risk and severity of AS, but no causal evidence for this relationship exists. Finally, calcium may support bone health for people with AS and osteoporosis, but it doesn’t seem to directly influence AS itself.

How could diet affect ankylosing spondylitis?

Although 78% of individuals with AS believe diet influences their symptoms, individual preferences and sensitivities vary. A low starch diet has been proposed to reduce Klebsiella bacteria, which has been implicated in triggering spondyloarthritis activity. Research suggests the diet is effective for AS management, and results in reductions of disease activity and reliance on NSAIDs.[4]

Are there any other treatments for ankylosing spondylitis?

Symptom management strategies vary based on individual needs and the presence of comorbidities. Research suggests exercise programs can reduce AS disease activity and improve quality of life.[5]

What causes ankylosing spondylitis?

Although the cause of AS is unknown, genetics play a large role in an individual’s susceptibility. In particular, the human leukocyte antigen HLA-B27 is strongly correlated with AS.[6] Men are more likely to present with the radiographic signs of AS, but spondyloarthritis occurs with a more even frequency.[7] The absence of radiographic indications among women can result in a diagnostic delay, during which time the disease can progress unmanaged.[8]

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