Arthritis Home > Ankylosing Spondylitis

A form of chronic inflammatory arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis is a condition that most often affects the spine, though it may occur in other parts of the body. The disease is usually characterized by back pain and stiffness. The exact cause is unknown; some risk factors for the condition include having a family history of the disease, being male, and having certain genetic variations. Treatment options may include lifestyle changes, medications, surgery, and routine monitoring.

What Is Ankylosing Spondylitis?

Ankylosing spondylitis is a chronic inflammatory disease that primarily affects the lower back. It can, however, affect other areas of the body. This includes the hips, shoulders, and knees as well as the tendons and ligaments around the bones and joints.
 
Approximately 350,000 people in the United States have this condition. The disease affects men more often than women. Symptoms may start in adolescence and are usually present by age 30. In some people, it can cause significant pain and disability for many years.
 

What Causes It?

Arthritis research scientists do not know the exact cause or causes of ankylosing spondylitis. They do think that it is caused by a combination of environmental, genetic, and immune system factors. At this point, however, they aren't sure how these factors tie together.
 

Risk Factors for Ankylosing Spondylitis

Researchers have identified a number of factors that increase a person's chances of developing the condition. These are known as ankylosing spondylitis risk factors. A risk factor is anything that increases a person's chances of developing a disease. Having risk factors does not guarantee that a person will develop ankylosing spondylitis; it just increases his or her chances for developing it.
 
Some risk factors for the condition include:
 
  • Having a family history of ankylosing spondylitis
  • Being male
  • Having certain genetic factors
  • Being an adolescent or young adult
  • Having certain infections.
     
(Click Ankylosing Spondylitis Causes for more information on these risk factors.)
 
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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