Spinal Problems Arthritis Ankylosing Spondylitis Disease

Ankylosing spondylitis is a type of spinal arthritis in which the joints and ligaments of the back become inflamed and eventually fuse (become joined together and rigid). Learn about common ankylosing spondylitis symptoms and ankylosing spondylitis treatment options, including the “ankylosing spondylitis diet.”

Ankylosing Spondylitis Symptoms

Initial ankylosing spondylitis symptoms are usually chronic pain and stiffness in the lower back and hips, especially in the morning and after inactivity. Over time, the pain and stiffness may spread, resulting in inflammation and pain in other areas, including:

  • Attachments of tendons and ligaments to bones
  • Joints between the ribs and spine
  • Joints in the hips, shoulders, knees and feet.

If the disease continues to progress, it can cause additional ankylosing spondylitis symptoms, such as:

  • Bowel inflammation
  • Chronic stooping, which can lead to kyphosis
  • Eye inflammation (uveitis)
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite and weight loss
  • Restricted chest expansion
  • Stiff, inflexible spine because the joints and bones have fused.

Ankylosing spondylitis disease symptoms may change over time—they can worsen, improve or stop entirely.

Ankylosing Spondylitis Disease Prevention

The cause of ankylosing spondylitis disease is unknown, though researchers suspect a genetic component to the disease’s development. According to the Spondylitis Association of America, people who have the HLA-B27 gene have an increased risk of developing the disease. Unfortunately, researchers haven’t yet identified any ways to prevent ankylosing spondylitis from developing.

Ankylosing Spondylitis Treatment

The goal of ankylosing spondylitis treatment is to relieve pain and stiffness and to prevent or delay complications. Usually, treatment of ankylosing spondylitis disease includes physical therapy to help reduce pain and stiffness, as well as to maintain back mobility.

Various medications are also often used as part of ankylosing spondylitis treatment. A common first choice is non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen. Other drug options include the following:

  • Corticosteroids: Corticosteroids, such as prednisone, may suppress some ankylosing spondylitis symptoms, such as inflammation and slow joint damage. Use is usually limited because of side effects, such as bone density loss and fatigue.
  • Disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs: DMARDs treat inflamed joints and help limit the amount of joint damage that occurs. This ankylosing spondylitis treatment option has potentially serious side effects, including low blood counts and liver damage.
  • Tumor necrosis factor (TNF) blockers: TNF is a cell protein that causes inflammation. Blocking TNF can help reduce ankylosing spondylitis symptoms such as pain, stiffness and swollen joints. The potential side effects include the reactivation of latent infections, such as tuberculosis, and a risk of neurological problems.

Ankylosing spondylitis disease does not usually require surgery. However, surgical ankylosing spondylitis treatment may be necessary to treat severe pain or joint damage, or replace a damaged non-spinal joint.

An ankylosing spondylitis diet is aimed at reducing symptoms, though it doesn’t work for everyone with the disorder. The diet is low in carbohydrates for the purposes of reducing inflammation. The ankylosing spondylitis diet essentially advocates reducing bread, potatoes, cakes and pasta, and increasing intake of meat, fish, fruits and vegetables. However, the ankylosing spondylitis diet is not widely accepted in the medical community as an effective ankylosing spondylitis treatment. Talk to your doctor for further information and guidance regarding ankylosing spondylitis.


Cedars-Sinai Staff. (n.d.). Ankylosing spondylitis (Marie-Strumpell Disease). Retrieved March 17, 2010, from http://www.csmc.edu/5641.html

Mayo Clinic Staff. (n.d.). Ankylosing spondylitis. Retrieved March 17, 2010, from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/ankylosing-spondylitis/DS00483

Spondylitis Association of America Staff. (n.d.). Ankylosing spondylitis. Retrieved March 17, 2010, from http://www.spondylitis.org/about/as.aspx

Spondylitis Association of America Staff. (n.d.). Spondylitis: Frequently asked questions. Retrieved April 1, 2010, from http://www.spondylitis.org/about/faq.aspx

Ankylosing Spondylitis Research Clinic (Professor Alan Ebringer). (n.d.). The London AS Diet. Retrieved March 17, 2010, from http://www.kickas.org/londondiet.shtml