15. Over time, the spine could fuse together
In some people, the extent of AS joint damage might be signs of inflammation, bone erosion, or bone thickening. But in others, calcification of the discs and ligaments between back bones could make the vertebrae fuse together. As this progresses into “bamboo spine,” patients can lose mobility in their back. Thankfully earlier diagnosis and more aggressive treatment of AS can help prevent or delay this.
16. AS can have a huge impact on patients’ quality of life
AS patients go through a lot. In part because of the slow progression and invisible nature of the disease, people go years without a diagnosis, a name for their symptoms, or proper treatment. A 2018 study from our parent nonprofit the Global Healthy Living Foundation found that AS has a staggering impact on people’s work lives and relationships.
For example, roughly half of the 235 respondents in the study reported being unemployed; the vast majority of those (91 percent) reported that this was due to AS. Among the people who were still working, AS affected many aspects of their daily work lives. People reported difficulty sitting or standing for long hours (72 percent), missing work (47 percent), difficulty doing physical tasks (42 percent), and loss of productivity (41 percent).
The most common impacts of AS on relationships were difficulty spending time with friends (63 percent), lack of understanding from friends and family about AS (54 percent), and difficulty spending time with family (47 percent).
17. There’s no cure for AS, but there is treatment
“There are better diagnostic and treatment options today than there were even 10 years ago,” says Dr. Kumar. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) might be used in milder cases, but many people will require additional options like biologics, which target specific immune system cells to ease inflammation, as well as corticosteroids, which help to suppress inflammation during flare-ups.