17 Important Facts You Might Not Know About Ankylosing Spondylitis

From surprising symptoms to misdiagnoses to the toll on quality of life, AS is complex, complicated disease, for patients and their loved ones.

Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) and its related conditions, called spondyloathropathies, affect millions of Americans, but these diseases aren’t exactly a household name. Ankylosing spondylitis is a type of inflammatory arthritis that predominantly affects the spine and sacroiliac joints (where the spine connects to the pelvis), causing lower back, hip, and pelvic pain. But AS is a complex, mysterious disease that can affect many other different parts of the body too.

Chances are you might know someone with AS, or are concerned about potential signs and symptoms of AS. Here are important facts about AS you need to know to help you better understand the disease and treatment.

1. Ankylosing spondylitis is an inflammatory disease

Unlike osteoarthritis, AS isn’t a result of the joints’ natural wear and tear, but develops because of chronic inflammation in the body. Because of the nature of inflammatory pain, the symptoms will also be different from wear-and-tear arthritis, says Santa Fe rheumatologist Hillary Norton, MD, who has AS herself. “Something that differentiates inflammatory pain is that it tends to get worse when you’re not moving the joints,” she says. Because you don’t move around when you’re in bed sleeping, that also means that it tends to get worse at night and in the morning.

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