Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) is a chronic inflammatory arthritis, which affects the joints of the spine and the joints between the spine and the pelvis. It cannot be cured, but the symptoms and progression of disease can be controlled with treatment.
Expected duration of AS
Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) is a chronic arthritis, which cannot be cured.
The disease causes pain and stiffness of the back in the initial stages, which may be difficult to differentiate from other causes of back pain. With progression of the disease, inflammation of the spine (spondylitis) can lead to a complete cementing together (fusion) of the vertebrae causing the spine to fuse in a fixed, immobile position. This process is known as ankylosis. Apart from the spine and the sacroiliac joints, other joints that can be affected by AS include shoulders, ribs, hips, knees and feet. Tendons and ligaments in other parts of the body apart from those that are attached to the vertebrae of the lower spine can become inflamed. Most people with the disease experience periods of remission interspersed with flare-up of symptoms (i.e. alternating periods where symptoms improve and worsen) and the rate of progression of the disease varies widely between different individuals. It is not possible to predict the course of the disease in a person.
It is a chronic disease, but its symptoms can be controlled sufficiently with treatment so that most people are able to lead a normal and productive life. Some people, however, develop spinal fusion and significant problems in the hip joint even after following the recommended treatment (medications, exercises and maintaining good posture). Spinal deformities usually arise about 10 years after the start of disease.
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