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Ankylosing Spondylitis and Rheumatoid Arthritis

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Girl with AS on a horse

The Family Tree of Rheumatic Diseases

Rheumatoid Arthritis is a strange disease which is difficult for science to explain. It is not surprising that there are several other rheumatic diseases which are akin to Rheumatoid Arthritis. Today, I am introducing you to one of the cousin’s of Rheumatoid Arthritis, Ankylosing Spondylitis.

What is Ankylosing spondylitis?

Ankylosing spondylitis is an autoimmune disease which results in chronic inflammation of the spine and sacroiliac joints. Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) produces progressive stiffening of the spine. Eventually, AS even leads to fusing of vertebrae and a bent posture.

What’s a Spondarthropathy

Ankylosing spondylitis is an inflammatory arthritis that is in a category called spondarthropathy. Spondarthropathies mimic Rheumatoid Arthritis in several ways. However, they are generally seronegative and positive for a gene marker called HLA-B27. Other spondarthropathies include Crohn’s disease, reactive arthritis, and psoriasis.

Since AS is a systemic rheumatic disease, it can also affect the entire body. Often, this includes eyes, heart, lungs, and other joints. Commonly involved are knees, ankles, and feet.

How is Ankylosing Spondylitis like Rheumatoid Arthritis?

  • morning stiffness
  • fatigue, malaise, nausea
  • genetically influenced rheumatic disease
  • typical pattern of flares and remissions
  • outcome of the disease varies widely among individuals
  • treated with these medications: NSAIDs, DMARDs, steroids, and Biologics
  • often difficult to aquire a diagnosis

How is Ankylosing Spondylitis different from Rheumatoid Arthritis?

  • peak onset age is 20 to 30 years old, rather than 30 to 40 for RA
  • AS is 3 times more common in men; RA
    is 3 times more common in women
  • AS primarily involves the axial skeleton; RA
    less frequently does
  • AS usually inflames the enthesis (where tendon inserts into bone); RA usually inflames the synovium (membrane that lines a joint)
  • AS does not appear to influence mortality as much as RA does statistically (likely due to heart disease issue)

Bottom line about RA and AS

Like Rheumatoid Arthritis, Ankylosing spondylitis is an invisible illness which disrupts lives. The entire course of a life can be changed by chronic pain, disability, and necessary medical treatments.

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Kelly Young. All rights reserved.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, September 16th, 2009 at 9:37 am and is filed under RA Education. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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