Published on Nov 16, 2023
Authored by Pfizer Medical Affairs
Things to remember
Ankylosing spondylitis is a type of arthritis that mainly affects the spine.
There’s no cure, however it can be managed with medication and lifestyle changes.
The most important thing you can do is regular exercise, which helps to keep your spine mobile and flexible.
Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) is a type of inflammatory arthritis that mainly affects the spine. Symptoms of AS include back pain, stiffness and reduced mobility in the spine.
The sacroiliac joints are commonly affected in ankylosing spondylitis. These joints connect the base of the spine (sacrum) to your pelvis. Other joints such as the hips and shoulders can also be affected, as can the eyes, skin, bowel and lungs.
Until fairly recently it was thought that AS affected more men than women. However recent research suggests men and women are affected relatively equally.1
The symptoms usually appear between the ages of 15 and 45 years. While there’s currently no cure for AS, there are many things you can do to help control your symptoms.
AS is an autoimmune disease. That means that it occurs as a result of a faulty immune system. Instead of identifying foreign bodies (e.g. bacteria, viruses) and attacking them to keep you healthy, your immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissue in and around your joints causing ongoing inflammation and pain.
In AS, as a result of this inflammation, new bone may grow around the joints in the spine. This can lead to permanent stiffness in the back and neck of some people with AS.
In severe cases this extra bone can fuse the bones of the spine together, however this can usually be prevented by starting appropriate treatment as early as possible.
Things to remember
Psoriatic arthritis (PsA) causes pain and inflammation in your joints
It’s usually associated with the skin condition psoriasis, but it can occur in people without psoriasis
There’s no cure, but it can be managed with early and ongoing treatment.
Psoriatic arthritis is a chronic condition that results from a malfunctioning immune system.
Your immune system is designed to identify foreign bodies (e.g. bacteria and viruses) and attack them to keep you healthy.
However, in the case of psoriatic arthritis, your immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissue in and around your joints causing inflammation and pain. It also causes the rapid build-up of skin cells, resulting in the scaly rash we know as psoriasis.
There are several types of PsA, and the symptoms you experience will depend on the type you have and the severity of your condition.
You may experience some of the following:
swelling, pain and heat in your joints
joint stiffness, especially in the morning
scaly skin patches (psoriasis)
persistent mental and physical tiredness (fatigue)
inflammation of your entheses (enthesitis), often at the heel
small dents (pitting) in your fingernails and toenails
swollen fingers (dactylitis) caused by inflammation of the tendon in the fingers or toes. Also called ’sausage’ fingers or toes
inflammation of the eyes, causing eye pain and redness
Your symptoms may vary from day to day.
At times your symptoms (e.g. pain, fatigue, inflammation) can become more intense. This is a flare. Flares are unpredictable and can seem to come out of nowhere.
There’s no single medical test that will diagnose PsA. And the symptoms of psoriatic arthritis can resemble other types of arthritis (e.g. rheumatoid arthritis, gout, osteoarthritis).
So your doctor will diagnosis your condition using a combination of exams and tests including:
discussing your symptoms and medical history with you
physical examination of your joints, skin and nails to look for any signs of change, including inflammation, rashes, nail pitting
blood tests that detect the presence of inflammation or particular proteins or antibodies (e.g. HLA B27)
Test results also help rule out other conditions that may have similar symptoms.
If you’re experiencing joint pain and inflammation, it’s important that you discuss your symptoms with your doctor.
Getting a diagnosis as soon as possible means that treatment can start promptly. Early treatment will help you to control joint and skin inflammation, manage pain more effectively and minimise the risk of long-term joint damage.
If you’re diagnosed with PsA you may be referred to a medical specialist known as a rheumatologist for further investigations and medical treatment. You may also be referred to a dermatologist to help manage your psoriasis.
While there’s no cure for PsA, there are many strategies to help manage your condition and symptoms so you can continue to lead a healthy and active life.
This information is adapted from Musculoskeletal Australia (MSK) with their permission.
MSK is a consumer organisation supporting people with conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, lupus, fibromyalgia, and back pain. To access their free Help Line, webinars and other services, call MSK weekdays on 1800 263 265, email [email protected] or visit msk.org.au