Ankylosing Spondylitis

(Marie-Strumpell Disease)


Ankylosing spondylitis is a chronic inflammatory disease of the attachment points between tendons, ligaments, or capsule and bone. It causes arthritis of the joints, mainly the spine and pelvis (sacroiliac joints). Ankylosing spondylitis can also cause inflammation of the eyes, lungs, or heart valves.
In severe cases, new bone may develop between the spinal bones. This can cause some areas of the spine to fuse. This fusion will decrease the flexibility and movement of the spine.
Ankylosing Spondylitis
Nucleus factsheet image
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.


The cause of ankylosing spondylitis is not known. Some cases may be associated with a problem in a specific gene.

Risk Factors

Factors that may increase your chance of ankylosing spondylitis include:


The severity of symptoms can vary from mild to very severe.
Common symptoms may include:
Less common symptoms may include:


The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Diagnosis is based on common symptoms of ankylosing spondylitis, such as:
Blood tests may be done to check for:
Images of involved joints may be taken with:


There is no cure for ankylosing spondylitis. Treatment is aimed at providing education and relieving the symptoms.
Treatments may include:


Medication may help to control pain and inflammation. They may include:
  • Over-the-counter medication such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • Prescription medication that suppresses the inflammation such as:
    • Prescription NSAIDs
    • Corticosteroids
    • Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs)
    • Tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-inhibitors

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy may help prevent progression and worsening of symptoms. Treatment may include:
  • Learning proper posture and the best positions for sleeping
  • Exercise program that includes:
    • Abdominal and back exercises (to decrease back stiffness and maintain good posture)
    • Stretching exercises
    • Water exercises
    • Breathing exercises (in cases where the rib cage is affected)


In severe cases, hip or joint replacement surgery may be needed. It will be done to relieve pain and help you move around easier. In some instances, spinal surgery is needed to allow an upright posture.


There are no guidelines for preventing ankylosing spondylitis because the cause is unknown.


Arthritis Foundation

Spondylitis Association of America


The Arthritis Society

Canadian Spondyloarthritis Association


Ankylosing spondylitis. Spondylitis Association of America website. Available at: Accessed December 17, 2014.

Ankylosing spondylitis. University of Washington Orthopedics and Sports Medicine Department website. Available at: Accessed December 17, 2014.

10/2/2009 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance FDA approves new drug to treat psoriasis. US Food and Drug Administration website. Available at: Updated April 17, 2013. Accessed December 17, 2014.

Revision Information