Ankylosing Spondylitis

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

  • Medical Editor: Catherine Burt Driver, MD
    Catherine Burt Driver, MD

    Catherine Burt Driver, MD

    Catherine Burt Driver, MD, is board certified in internal medicine and rheumatology by the American Board of Internal Medicine. Dr. Driver is a member of the American College of Rheumatology. She currently is in active practice in the field of rheumatology in Mission Viejo, Calif., where she is a partner in Mission Internal Medical Group.

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Is it possible to prevent ankylosing spondylitis?

There is no prevention for this inherited (genetic) disease. Prevention measures are directed toward preventing complications of the disease with optimal treatments and monitoring for side effects of the treatments. Exercise can help to maintain flexibility.

What is the prognosis (outlook) for patients with ankylosing spondylitis?

The outlook for patients with ankylosing spondylitis is very much dependent upon the location and severity of its manifestations. The prognosis is best for those who maintain close monitoring with the treating doctors and who incorporate physical activities designed to maintain mobility. Quitting smoking is essential for the best long-term outcome. It has been found that people with ankylosing spondylitis have somewhat of an increased risk for coronary artery disease. This increased risk appears to be caused by chronic inflammation. Therefore, it is important to optimize all modifiable cardiac risks, including elevated blood pressure and cholesterol.

What is in the future for patients with ankylosing spondylitis?

Ankylosing spondylitis and each of the spondyloarthropathies are areas of active research. The relationship between infectious agents and the triggering of chronic inflammation is vigorously being pursued. Factors that perpetuate "autoimmunity" are being identified. The characteristics of the gene marker HLA-B27 are being further defined. In fact, there are now known to be seven different subtypes of HLA-B27.

The impact of the recent discovery of the two additional genes, ARTS1 and IL23R, associated with ankylosing spondylitis (described above under "Causes") cannot be overstated. These genes seem to play a role in influencing immune function. It is anticipated that by understanding the effects of each of these known genes researchers will make significant progress in discovering a cure for ankylosing spondylitis.

As more about the precise mechanisms these genes use to influence the immune system is understood, the discovery of a cure will be possible. Moreover, results of ongoing research will lead to a better understanding and optimal treatment options of the entire group of diseases collectively known as spondyloarthropathies.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 7/17/2015
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