Ankylosing Spondylitis

Schwartzman Rheumatology

Sergio Schwartzman, MD

Rheumatologist located in Upper East Side, New York, NY

Ankylosing spondylitis (AS), an illness in the spectrum of a group of conditions called Spondyloarthritis, causes inflammation in the spinal joints and can result in significant back pain. At his practice located in the Upper East Side of Manhattan, world-leading rheumatologist Sergio Schwartzman, MD, has exceptional experience and knowledge in treating patients who have AS and Axial Spondyloarthritis. Dr. Schwartzman is also a clinical associate professor of medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College of Cornell University, the New York-Presbyterian Hospital, and the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City. Call the New York City office today to schedule a consultation.

Ankylosing Spondylitis Q & A

What is ankylosing spondylitis?

AS, and the new broader term Axial Spondyloarthritis, are inflammatory diseases that predominantly affect the spine, neck, back, and hips. This group of diseases also frequently affects tendons causing tendonitis and infrequently can affect other joints in the body. They can also uncommonly affect the gastrointestinal tract, the eyes, and the skin. 

AS is an inflammatory disease that usually develops in the second and third decades of life. It is more frequently seen in men than in women. However, for the entire group, axial spondyloarthritis, there is gender equality. There is a gene HLA- B27 that is more commonly expressed in people with AS.

Generally, these diseases cause pain that is worse in the morning and improves throughout the day. The therapy for this group of diseases has dramatically improved over the last 10-20 years and there are multiple treatment options.

What are the symptoms of ankylosing spondylitis?

Typical symptoms of ankylosing spondylitis are pain in the:

  • Spine
  • Neck
  • Back
  • Hips
  • Tendonitis
  • Arthritis 

There is stiffness in the morning and ultimately if not treated appropriately reduced range of motion of the spine.  Typically rest does not relieve these symptoms.

Eye inflammation, known as uveitis, can also occur with ankylosing spondylitis, so regular eye checkups are important. Some people who have AS may also develop heart and lung problems, but these are rare.

How is ankylosing spondylitis treated?

An early diagnosis that leads to prompt treatment can prevent the more serious complications of AS. There is no cure for AS, but the sooner the disease is identified and treated, the better the prognosis.

Physical therapy is vital for patients with Axial Spondyloarthritis. These exercises aim to help improve posture and maintain spinal flexibility.

There are a number of medications that have been approved for AS and Axial Spondyloarthritis. 

Newer treatments using TNF (tumor necrosis factor) inhibitors can slow down the progress of AS and in some cases, prevent further deterioration.

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications and joint injections can also help with pain and reduce stiffness. Some patients who are severely affected by AS might benefit from undergoing surgery if no other treatments are helping, but most people who have AS never need surgery.

To find out more about ankylosing spondylitis and the treatments available, call Sergio Schwartzman, MD.