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Ankylosing Spondylitis

Frequently Asked Questions: Ankylosing Spondylitis

Friday, March 16, 2012 - 14:41

Contributing Author: Guy Slowik FRCS

Q: Is spondylitis the same as spondylosis?

A: No. Spondylosis is a condition usually caused by degeneration of the discs between the vertebrae. It may be caused by aging or injury and not by an inflammatory disease as in ankylosing spondylitis.

Q: Is rheumatism the same thing as arthritis?

A: No. Rheumatism is a nontechnical term for pain in and around a joint. Arthritis is an inflammation of the joint. Thus everybody with arthritis has a form of rheumatism but not everyone with rheumatism has arthritis.

Q: What kind of doctor treats ankylosing spondylitis?

A: Ankylosing spondylitis is best treated by a rheumatologist, that is, a specialist in treating arthritis.

Q: How does one find a rheumatologist?

A: The primary care physician can make a referral to a rheumatologist. The American College of Rheumatology can also provide a list of rheumatologists practicing in a given area.

Q: I have ankylosing spondylitis, and my wife and I want to have a baby. Should we consider genetic counseling?

A: Genetic counseling can be useful. Some researchers believe that ankylosing spondylitis skips a generation, but this has not been confirmed. However, you may wish to discuss with a genetic counselor the chances of your children having ankylosing spondylitis later in life. Three in ten close relatives of people with the condition will develop it too.

Q: Will I physically be able to maintain a pregnancy if I have ankylosing spondylitis?

A: Unless the condition is very severe, pregnancy is not usually a problem for women with ankylosing spondylitis. However, pregnant women should not take anti-inflammatory drugs.

Q: Is there a cure for ankylosing spondylitis?

A: Ankylosing spondylitis cannot be cured. Anti-inflammatory drugs and exercise are used to manage the condition.

Q: Why is posture so important for people with ankylosing spondylitis?

A: Because ankylosing spondylitis tends to cause stooping associated with fusion of the spinal vertebrae, it is very important to maintain a straight and upright posture even during sleep. Patients may not be able to prevent stiffness, but one can assure that any stiffness is in a functional, less stooped position.

Ankylosing Spondylitis