What Is AS?
Posted by Brian Warner
About Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS)
AS, a systemic autoimmune disease, is a type of arthritis that affects the joints between the vertebrae of the spine, especially those found in the lower back. AS causes inflammation in the areas where tendons or ligaments attach to bone, which then makes the vertebrae merge — or fuse — together. Gradually, the disease moves up, affecting joints higher and higher on the spine. Besides the joints, the bowels, lungs, heart and eyes can also be affected. Two-thirds of all patients, such as the entertainer Ed Sullivan, end up with a curved, forward-stooping posture.
AS is also called Marie-Strümpell disease: Named for the French neurologist Pierre Marie (1853-1940) and the German neurologist whose full name was Ernst Adolf Gustav Gottfried von Str¨mpell (1853-1925). medicine.net
More than one million people have ankylosing spondylitis. AS most commonly strikes men in their 20s and children account for about 5% of all cases diagnosed.
AS is also called Bechterew’s Disease: Initial clinical descriptions appeared in the last decade of the 18th century. One of the contributors was the Russian Wladimir Bechterew whose name thereafter has been linked to the disease ( Leden, 1994).
It is estimated that more than half of AS patients took more than five years to be diagnosed; almost a third took 10 years or more. Respondents to a 2002 study conducted by Harris Interactive (on behalf of the Spondylitis Association of America) presented a grim view of life with AS:
• 66% had forward-stooped posture.
• 55% said their spine had at least partial fusion.
• 60% had limitations to their daily lives.
• 25% were forced to change their job/career because of AS.
• 44% avoid certain jobs/careers due to AS, while 17% under age 65 said they are “not working.”
• 24% saw five or more health professionals before final diagnosis.
• 29% said that when pain was at its worst, they were unable to move and were incapacitated.
• 51% had trouble breathing because of the disease.
More information on AS can be found by following the informative links on the Useful AS Links page.