Taken from (SAA): Spondylitis Association of America:
Ankylosing Spondylitis is a type of arthritis primarily affecting the spine although other joints can become involved. It causes inflammation of the vertebrae that can lead to severe, chronic pain. In the most extreme cases this can lead to new bone formation on the spine causing the spine to fuse in a fixed immobile position, sometimes creating a stooped posture. This forward curvature is called Kyphosis.
AS can also cause inflammation, pain and stiffness in other parts of the body such as the shoulders, hips, ribs, heels and small joints of the hands and feet. Sometimes the eyes can become involved (known as Iritis or Uveitis), and rarely, the lungs and heart can be affected.
The hallmark feature of ankylosing spondylitis is the involvement of the sacroiliac (SI) joints during the progression of the disease, which are the joints at the base of the spine, where the spine joins the pelvis.
Currently, there is no known cure for AS, but there are treatments and medications available to reduce symptoms and manage the pain. Recent studies show that the new biologic medications can potentially slow or halt the disease progression in some people.
Who is At Risk?
The risk factors that predispose a person to ankylosing spondylitis include:
Testing positive for the HLA-B27 marker
A family history of AS
Frequent gastrointestinal infections
Unlike other forms of arthritis and rheumatic diseases, general onset of AS commonly occurs in younger people, between the ages of 17-35. However, it can affect children and those who are much older. AS is more common in men, but occurs in women as well.
The severity of AS varies greatly from person to person, and not everyone will experience the most serious complications or have spinal fusion. Some will experience only intermittent back pain and discomfort, but others will experience severe pain and stiffness over multiple areas of the body for long periods of time. AS can be very debilitating, and in some cases, lead to disability.
Almost all cases of AS are characterized by acute, painful episodes (also known as “flares”) followed by temporary periods of remission where symptoms subside.
It is important to know that ankylosing spondylitis is a chronic, or life long disease and that the severity of AS has nothing to do with age or gender. It can be just as severe in women and children as it is in men.
For more information please go to http://www.spondylitis.org