Ankylosing Spondylitis Symptoms

In many cases, ankylosing spondylitis will begin with back pain, back stiffness, loss of flexibility, and bony tenderness. The disease may also cause arthritis in the shoulders, hips, and other joints. In up to 40 percent of people with the condition, signs and symptoms of ankylosing spondylitis may include episodes of eye inflammation called acute iritis; such episodes require immediate medical attention.

An Introduction to the Symptoms of Ankylosing Spondylitis

Ankylosing spondylitis is a condition that primarily affects the spine. It is a form of chronic inflammatory arthritis characterized by back pain and stiffness. These ankylosing spondylitis symptoms typically appear in adolescence or early adulthood. They often vary significantly from one person to another, and not everyone with the condition will experience serious symptoms or have spinal fusion.
Almost all cases of ankylosing spondylitis can periodically show up, or flare, and then get better. Unfortunately, there is no way for the healthcare provider to know what ankylosing spondylitis symptoms a particular person will have and whether or not these symptoms will flare.

Early Signs and Symptoms

The earliest symptoms of ankylosing spondylitis result from inflammation of the joints between the base of the spine (the sacrum) and the hipbones (the ilia). These joints are called sacroiliac joints, and inflammation in this region is known as sacroiliitis. The disorder also causes inflammation of the joints between vertebrae, which is called spondylitis.
This inflammation often results in early ankylosing spondylitis symptoms that include:
  • Back pain (most often lower back pain, although upper back pain or neck pain is possible)
  • Back stiffness
  • Some loss of flexibility
  • Bony tenderness.
Pain associated with ankylosing spondylitis may:
  • Develop gradually over many months
  • Worsen in the morning (or after long periods of rest)
  • Improve with activity
  • Wake a person up during the second half of his or her sleep
  • Usually be on both sides (although in the beginning it may alternate from one side to the other).
Back or neck stiffness is also worse in the morning and typically lasts at least 30 minutes.
Ankylosing spondylitis can involve other joints as well, including the:
  • Shoulders
  • Hips
  • Joints in the limbs (although this is not as common), including the ankle, elbow, knee, heel, and fingers.


Arthritis in the hips and shoulders occurs in up to 35 percent of people and can cause early symptoms of ankylosing spondylitis.

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Ankylosing Spondylitis Information

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