Ankylosing spondylitis is an inflammatory disease and form of arthritis that causes vertebrae in the spine to fuse together. This limits flexibility in the spine and may cause a person to have a hunched-forward posture. It can also affect the ribs, making it difficult to breathe deeply and cause inflammation in other parts of the body such as the eyes.
There is no cure for the disease, but treatments can help reduce the pain and other symptoms. Certain medications can help relieve pain, stiffness and inflammation. Physical therapy and exercise can help maintain flexibility in the joints. Most people with ankylosing spondylitis don’t require surgery, but if the disease becomes severe enough, surgery may be recommended to replace or correct joints.
Ankylosing spondylitis mostly causes extreme back pain, joint pain and stiffness. The pain and stiffness are usually worse after sleeping or inactivity and better after exercise or movement. The most common area affected is the lower part of the spine, where it meets the hips. The severity of the disease varies for each individual. Some experience only occasional back pain and can usually go about their usual activities while others have chronic and debilitating pain that can cause disability and interfere with all aspects of their lives.
There are several organizations available to provide information, resources and support to people living with ankylosing spondylitis.