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Ankylosing spondylitis is a chronic inflammatory disease. It causes arthritis of the joints, mainly the spine and hips. 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.
The cause of ankylosing spondylitis is not known. Some cases may be associated with a problem in a specific gene.
Factors that increase your chance of ankylosing spondylitis include:
The severity of symptoms can vary from mild to very severe.
Common symptoms may include:
Stiffening and pain (arthritis) of the:
- Lower back
- Sacroiliac joint, where the back and hip meet, possibly radiating down the legs
- Pain that is often worse at night
- Stiffness that is worse in the morning
- Symptom improvement with exercise or activity
Occasionally, pain and stiffness in other joints:
- Upper back
- Rib cage
- Chest pain, which may suggest heart, heart valve, or lung problems
- Eye pain, visual changes, increased tearing
Less common symptoms may include:
- Loss of appetite or weight loss
- Numbness (if arthritic spurs compress the spinal nerves)