Basic Information about Ankylosing Spondylitis
Ankylosing Spondylitis is a painful, debilitating arthritis of the spine and hips. The disease is characterized by chronic inflammation and pain between the vertebrae and in the joints where the spine meets the pelvis. Over time, this inflammation can lead to the growth of new bone around the vertebral discs, causing the spine to "fuse" solid. This causes dramatic reduction in mobility of the back and neck, in the worst cases leading to a stooped posture with extreme spinal curvature. The disease can also cause pain in other joints, including the rib cage, shoulders, knees, hands, ankles, and feet—anywhere that tendons attach to bone. The disease also frequently effects the eyes, leading to painful bouts of anterior uveitis. In some cases, internal organs, particularly the heart, can be effected.

An important thing to note is that symptoms tend to appear in young men and women between ages 17 and 35. Ankylosing Spondylitis affects 2.4 million people in the United States alone. In the early stages, it can be difficult to diagnose--often delayed by ten years or more after the onset of symptoms. This means irreversable damage has already occured before diagnosis is made. More often then not, a specialist skilled in chronic inflammatory conditions called a rheumatologist is the one who recognizes the disease and makes the diagnosis. As of now, there are no definitive blood tests. There are excellent treatment strategies that help ameliorate the pain and suffering associated with Ankylosing Spondylitis, but there is no cure. Improved diagnosis would enable patients to receive therapy much sooner, perhaps preventing irreversible damage.

One mission of ASAP is to raise awareness about Ankylosing Spondylitis in order to stimulate research into the disease. The critical goals in AS research are as follows:

1. Improve our ability to diagnose the disease
2. Determine the cause of the disease.
3. Understand the mechanism by which fusion takes place.
4. Develop therapies that treat the source, rather than the symptoms, of the disease.

The SAA is taking a leading role in promoting AS research, through the TASC consortium. Please see below for more details.

Learn more about ankylosing spondylitis at the Spondylitis Association of America, the National Institutes of Health, the Mayo Clinic, and MedicineNet.
Normal Spine
Fused Spine
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