Ankylosing spondylitis

Ankylosing spondylitis is an inflammatory disease that can cause some of the vertebrae in your spine to fuse together. This fusing makes the spine less flexible and can result in a hunched-forward posture. If ribs are affected, it may be difficult to breathe deeply.

Ankylosing spondylitis affects men more often than women. Signs and symptoms of ankylosing spondylitis typically begin in early adulthood. Inflammation also can occur in other parts of your body — most commonly, your eyes.

There is no cure for ankylosing spondylitis, but treatments can decrease your pain and lessen your symptoms.

Symptoms Causes Risk factors Complications

Early signs and symptoms of ankylosing spondylitis may include pain and stiffness in your lower back and hips, especially in the morning and after periods of inactivity. Over time, symptoms may worsen, improve or stop completely at irregular intervals.

The areas most commonly affected are:

  • The joint between the base of your spine and your pelvis
  • The vertebrae in your lower back
  • The places where your tendons and ligaments attach to bones, mainly in your spine, but sometimes along the back of your heel
  • The cartilage between your breastbone and ribs
  • Your hip and shoulder joints

When to see a doctor

Seek medical attention if you have low back or buttock pain that came on slowly, is worse in the morning or awakens you from your sleep in the second half of the night — particularly if this pain improves with exercise and worsens with rest. See an eye specialist (ophthalmologist) immediately if you develop a painful red eye, severe light sensitivity or blurred vision.

© 1998-2015 Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER). All rights reserved. Terms of use