What is ankylosing spondylitis?
Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) is a chronic inflammatory form of arthritis that affects the spinal joints. The hallmark feature of AS is the involvement of the joints at the base of the spine where the spine joins the pelvis - the sacroiliac (SI) joints.
The disease course is highly variable, and while some individuals have episodes of transient back pain only, others have more chronic severe back pain that leads to differing degrees of spinal stiffness over time. In almost all cases the disease is characterized by acute painful episodes and remissions (periods where the problem settles).
Over the years AS has been known by many different names including poker back, rheumatoid spondylitis, and Marie-Strumpells spondylitis. Since the early 70s with increasing knowledge about the disease, there is almost universal use of the term ankylosing spondylitis (AS).
AS is a member of the family of diseases that attack the spine. These are named spondylarthropathies. In addition to AS, these diseases include Reiter’s syndrome, some cases of psoriatic arthritis and the arthritis of inflammatory bowel disease.
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