What is A.S. ?

Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS)

What is ankylosing spondylitis?

Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) is a painful, often progressive and potentially debilitating chronic inflammatory condition that tends to affect young people, mainly men, in their late teens and twenties.1 It is commonly referred to as arthritis of the spine.

What is ankylosing spondylitis 

Spine inflammation

AS initially begins with persistent lower back pain and stiffness which over time, become progressively worse, particularly at night as a result of local inflammation of the soft tissue supporting bone.1

The symptoms include:

  1. Slow or gradual onset of back pain and stiffness over weeks or months, rather than hours or days (seldom an acute back pain)
  2. Early-morning stiffness and back pain, wearing off or reducing during the day with movement
  3. Feeling better after exercise and feeling worse after rest
  4. Sleep disturbance due to pain, particularly second half of the night
  5. Arthritis, in large joints, especially the legs, together with pain in the joints of the lower back particularly at night or on waking
  6. Persistence of above symptoms for more than three months
  7. Fatigue
  8. Pain relieved for a time after a shower or bath
  9. Symptoms begin typically in late teens or 20’s
  10. Associated conditions:
  • Iritis (or uveitis) which is inflammation of part of the iris within the eye; and conjunctivitis which causes red, gritty and painful eyes
  • Inflammatory Bowel Syndrome (chronic inflammatory disease of the gut)Diagram to show what happens to the spine due to ankylosing spondylitisInflammation occurs where ligaments or tendons are attached to the bone causing damage at the site of attachment. When the healing process begins, new bone develops replacing the elastic tissue of the ligaments or tendons.1,2Recurrence of this inflammatory process leads to further new bone formation which gradually results in the restriction of joint movement. When these disease processes occur in the spine, irreversible damage is caused as the vertebrae (joints of the spine) become fused together.1,2

AS varies between individuals in the way it progresses and symptoms will differ in severity, however most patients will experience flare-ups of inflammation periodically. 2 Disease progression can lead to fusion of the spine; causing loss of mobility and loss of function. In advanced stages of the disease or severe cases that are left untreated, spinal mobility and flexibility may become so reduced that the patient becomes progressively stooped (bent-over) making it increasingly difficult for the individual to move freely and carry out their usual daily activities.2,3 AS can lead to decreased daily activity, loss of work productivity and reduced quality of life in those affected. 1

Peripheral inflammationAlthough AS is a form of arthritis which primarily affects the spine, other joints and organs of the body can also be affected such as the hips, shoulders, knees, eyes, lungs, bowel, skin, and heart.2 Up to 40 per cent of people with AS will at some point develop a severe inflammation inside one or both of their eyes, this is known as iritis or uveitis and it causes redness and blurred vision. 2,3

AS sometimes overlaps with other conditions including reactive arthritis, psoriasis and inflammatory bowel disease. These overlapping conditions exist under the umbrella term ‘spondyloarthritis’.3,4

References

1. Sieper J. et al. Ankylosing spondylitis: an overview. Ann Rheum Dis. 2002;61(Suppl III):iii8-iii18

2. National Ankylosing Spondylitis Society. Guidebook for `Patients: A Positive Response to Ankylosing Spondylitis. March 2007

3. Elyan M, Khan MA. Diagnosing Ankylosing Spondylitis. Rheum. 2006:33 (Suppl 78):12-23

4. Sieper J, Braun J. Clinician’s Manual on Ankylosing Spondylitis. London: Current Medicine Group.

What causes ankylosing spondylitis?

The tendency to develop ankylosing spondylitis is believed to be genetically inherited, and a majority (nearly 90%) of people with ankylosing spondylitis are born with a gene known as the HLA-B27 gene. Blood tests have been developed to detect the HLA-B27 gene marker and have furthered our understanding of the relationship between HLA-B27 and ankylosing spondylitis. The HLA-B27 gene appears only to increase the tendency of developing ankylosing spondylitis, while some additional factor(s), perhaps environmental, are necessary for the disease to appear or become expressed. For example, while 7% of the United States population have the HLA-B27 gene, only 1% of the population actually has the disease ankylosing spondylitis. In northern Scandinavia (Lapland), 1.8% of the population have ankylosing spondylitis while 24% of the general population have the HLA-B27 gene. Even among HLA-B27-positive individuals, the risk of developing ankylosing spondylitis appears to be further related to heredity. In HLA-B27-positive individuals who have relatives with the disease, the risk of developing ankylosing spondylitis is 12% (six times greater than for those whose relatives do not have ankylosing spondylitis).

Recently, two more genes have been identified that are associated with ankylosing spondylitis. These genes are called ARTS1 and IL23R. These genes seem to play a role in influencing immune function. It is anticipated that by understanding the effects of each of these known genes researchers will make significant progress in discovering a cure for ankylosing spondylitis.

How inflammation occurs and persists in different organs and joints in ankylosing spondylitis is a subject of active research. Each individual tends to have their own unique pattern of presentation and activity of the illness. The initial inflammation may be a result of an activation of the body’s immune system, perhaps by a preceding bacterial infection or a combination of infectious microbes. Once activated, the body’s immune system becomes unable to turn itself off, even though the initial bacterial infection may have long subsided. Chronic tissue inflammation resulting from the continued activation of the body’s own immune system in the absence of active infection is the hallmark of an inflammatory autoimmune disease.

References

Medical Author: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR 

Medical Editor:Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

http://www.medicinenet.com/ankylosing_spondylitis/article.htm

Getting a diagnosis

It is important to get an accurate diagnosis early in the disease course. This is because AS progresses over time and so the earlier the condition is diagnosed and treated the better the outcome for the patient and their ability to continue with the activities they enjoy.3

Due to low awareness and poor recognition of AS, amongst both the general public and healthcare professionals, diagnosis may be delayed by

as much as eleven years after the initial onset of symptoms.3

If you think that you have some or all of the typical symptoms described here we recommend that next time you visit your primary care physician you print off the symptom checklist and discuss the symptoms that you are experiencing with them.

Print off the AS symptom checklist.

There is no direct test to diagnose AS. Your primary care physician is likely to carry out an examination of your back and possibly a pelvic x-ray, and either start treatment or refer you to a rheumatologist if AS is suspected or confirmed.2

References

2. National Ankylosing Spondylitis Society. Guidebook for `Patients: A Positive Response to Ankylosing Spondylitis. March 2007

3. Elyan M, Khan MA. Diagnosing Ankylosing Spondylitis. Rheum. 2006:33 (Suppl 78):12-23

Treating ankylosing spondylitis

Treating AS

There is no cure for AS however there are a number of treatment options available, as outlined below, to help reduce the pain and stiffness experienced by sufferers, thus improving general well-being.2

In addition to taking medication it is vital to maintain good posture and a regular exercise routine (e.g. swimming) as this will help prevent the spine from “stiffening up”. Physiotherapy is an important part of managing AS and can greatly influence the outcome of the condition.2

www.nass.co.uk/public/exercises.htm

Anti-Inflammatory Drugs

In the first instance a primary care physician or rheumatologist may advise taking Non Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, which can provide symptomatic relief by reducing pain and inflammation.1 Paracetamol is often suggested as an alternative treatment if sufferers experience side effects with NSAIDs.2

Disease-Modifying Anti-Rheumatic Drugs

In some AS patients, inflammation of joints excluding the spine (such as the hips, knees, or ankles) may develop.1 Inflammation in these joints may not respond to anti-inflammatory drugs alone and the addition of disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) such as sulphasalazine or methotrexate may be considered.7These drugs arecommonly used to treat rheumatoid arthritis and affect the underlying disease process.

Biologics

Biologics are a relatively new form of treatment which are similar to human or animal proteins, unlike other typical medicines which are made by combining chemicals. Biologics work by targeting the underlying inflammatory processes involved in conditions such as AS. Biologics have been demonstrated to be highly effective for the treatment of AS by reducing inflammation and improving spinal mobility in addition to slowing disease progression.1,7 Biologics are usually administered by injection.2

One class of biologics, known as TNF-inhibitors, works by blocking the inflammation caused by specific molecules in the immune system known as tumour necrosis factor (TNF). TNF plays an important role in the inflammation process and patients with AS have increased levels of TNF in their body. Currently there are three TNF-inhibitor drugs which target TNF approved in Europe for the treatment of AS.4, 7

The route of treatment is assessed for each individual patient but is usually dependent on the severity of symptoms and the location of the inflammation (i.e. whether the inflammation is within the spine only or whether it is present in the peripheral joints outside the spine too).4

References

1. Sieper J. et al. Ankylosing spondylitis: an overview. Ann Rheum Dis. 2002;61(Suppl III):iii8-iii18

2. National Ankylosing Spondylitis Society. Guidebook for `Patients: A Positive Response to Ankylosing Spondylitis. March 2007

4. Sieper J, Braun J. Clinician’s Manual on Ankylosing Spondylitis. London: Current Medicine Group.

7. Braun J. et al. International ASAS consensus statement for the use of anti-tumour necrosis factor agents in patients with ankylosing spondylitis. Ann Rheum Dis. 2003;62:817–824

Living with ankylosing spondylitis?

If AS is well managed sufferers should be able to continue to carry out normal daily activities. However, some sufferers may have to cope with varying degrees of pain, sleep disturbance, sick leave and functional problems with everyday tasks such as driving.1 It is important to get an accurate diagnosis early in the disease course and start treatment before the condition progresses.

References

1. Sieper J. et al. Ankylosing spondylitis: an overview. Ann Rheum Dis. 2002;61(Suppl III):iii8-iii18

Download the information on this page.

Download the AS symptom checklist.

What is in the future for patients with ankylosing spondylitis?

Ankylosing spondylitis and each of the spondyloarthropathies are areas of active research. The relationship between infectious agents and the triggering of chronic inflammation is vigorously being pursued. Factors that perpetuate “autoimmunity” are being identified. The characteristics of the gene marker HLA-B27 are being further defined. In fact, there are now known to be seven different subtypes of HLA-B27.

The impact of the recent discovery of the two additional genes, ARTS1 and IL23R, associated with ankylosing spondylitis (described above under “Causes”) cannot be overstated. These genes seem to play a role in influencing immune function. It is anticipated that by understanding the effects of each of these known genes researchers will make significant progress in discovering a cure for ankylosing spondylitis.

As more about the precise mechanisms these genes use to influence the immune system is understood, the discovery of a cure will be possible. Moreover, results of ongoing research will lead to a better understanding and treatment of the entire group of diseases collectively known as spondyloarthropathies.

Ankylosing Spondylitis At A Glance
  • Ankylosing spondylitis belongs to a group of arthritis conditions which tend to cause chronic inflammation of the spine (spondyloarthropathies).
  • Ankylosing spondylitis affects males two to three times more commonly than females.
  • Ankylosing spondylitis is a cause of back pain in adolescents and young adults.
  • The tendency to develop ankylosing spondylitis is genetically inherited.
  • The HLA-B27 gene can be detected in the blood of most patients with ankylosing spondylitis.
  • Ankylosing spondylitis can also affect the eyes, heart, lungs, and occasionally the kidneys.
  • The optimal treatment of ankylosing spondylitis involves medications that reduce inflammation or suppress immunity, physical therapy, and exercise.

For more information about ankylosing spondylitis, please visit the Arthritis Foundation (http://www.arthritis.org/).

REFERENCES:

1. Primer on the Rheumatic Diseases. Springer, edited by John H. Klippel, et al., 2008.

2. Kelley’s Textbook of Rheumatology. W B Saunders Co, edited by Shaun Ruddy, et al., 2000.

3. American College of Rheumatology Annual Scientific National Meeting, 2005-8.

Last Editorial Review: 6/24/2010

Data from: http://eu.back-in-play.com/back-pain-and-as/what-is-ankylosing-spondylitis.aspx

http://www.medicinenet.com/ankylosing_spondylitis/article.htm

Synonyms for ankylosing spondylitis

Bechterew’s disease

Chronic ankylosing inflammation of the vertebral column (Strümpell, 1897)

Spondylose rhizomélique (Marie, 1898)

Spondylitis deformans (Goldthwaite, 1899)

Spondylarthritis ankylopoietica (Fraenkel, 1904)

Ossifying ligamentous spondylitis (Knaggs, 1924)

Syndesmite ossifiante (Simmond, 1931)

Spondylitis rhizomelica

Marie- Strümpell Disease

Morbus Bechterew- Marie- Strümpell

Rheumatoid spondylitis (ARA 1941)

Pelvo-spondylitis ossificans (Romanus, 1951)

Rheumatoid ossifying pelvispondylitis

Rhizomelic spondylosis

Ankylosing spondylitis (Tichy, 1961 ; ARA 1963)

Atrophic ligamentous spondylitis

Atrophic spondylitis

Infectious spondylitis

Bamboo spine

Poker spine

.

FIND MORE INFORMATION ABOUT A.S.

Ankylosing Spondylitis

โรคข้อสันหลังอักเสบชนิดติดยึด ( Ankylosing Spondylitis ) 

เราจะวินิจฉัยภาวะกระดูกสันหลังอักเสบติดยึดในระยะเริ่มแรกได้อย่างไร โดย ผศ.พญ.ชิงชิง ฟูเจริญ

แนวทางเวชปฏิบัติการใช้ยากลุ่ม Anti- TNF Agents ใน โรคข้อกระดูกสันหลังอักเสบติดยึด AS รวมถึง โรคข้อสันหลังอักเสบที่จำแนกประเภทไม่ได้ Undifferentiated Spondyloarthropathy โดย สมาคมรูมาติสซั่มแห่งประเทศไทย

โรคข้อและข้อสันหลังอักเสบ โดย น.พ.กิตติ โตเต็มโชคชัยการ ภาควิชาอายุรศาสตร์ คณะแพทยศาสตร์โรงพยาบาลรามาธิบดี มหาวิทยาลัยมหิดล

โรคหลังแข็ง ตอนที่ 1 สันหลังอักเสบติดยึด

โรคหลังแข็ง ตอนที่ 2 สันหลังอักเสบติดยึด รักษาได้จริงหรือ

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