Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) is a form of arthritis that primarily affects the spine. It may also affect other joints. AS typically causes inflammation of the spinal joints or vertebrae and can lead to severe, long lasting pain and discomfort.
The exact cause of these conditions are unknown. Many scientists believe that certain factors are involved, such as:
- Genetics - Certain genes passed from parent to child are known to play a role in the development of these conditions, although they are not the only factor.
- Environmental - Some scientists believe there is something environmental (such as an infection) that may trigger a person whose genetic makeup makes them more likely to develop the condition.
- Other factors - Males are more likely to develop AS than females.
The treatment goals for AS are to relieve pain, reduce swelling in the joints, slow down or stop joint damage, and help people feel better and stay active. Medications are taken by mouth or given as a shot and may include:
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) - Reduce the amount of swelling and quickly relieve pain.
- Corticosteroids - Reduce swelling and help relieve pain over time.
- Disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) and biologic response modifiers (biologics) - Reduce swelling, help relieve pain over time, and slow or prevent joint damage.
Physical therapy also helps preserve joint function and may prevent deformities.