Spondyloarthritis is an inflammatory rheumatic disease affecting the spine, joints and entheses (which are sites of insertion of a ligament, tendon, or articular capsule into bone, for example the Archilles tendonitis, plantar fasciitis). It is a collective group of several related diseases: Ankylosing spondylitis, psoriatic arthritis, enteropathic arthritis, reactive arthritis, and undifferentiated spondyloarthritis.

Causes of spondyloarthritis

This family of conditions is recognised as chronic autoimmune with an unknown cause, but genes may play a role and an infective trigger may sometimes be present.

Symptoms of spondyloarthritis​

In spondyloarthritis, there is inflammation of the spine, joints and entheses. If it involves fingers and toes, they may swell and take the appearance of ‘sausage digits’.

All these diseases display a variety of symptoms and signs, but they share many similarities, including:

  • S​acroiliitis (inflammation of the joint between the pelvis and the spine) and spondylitis (inflammation of the joints between the spine).
  • Presence of enthesitis (inflammation of an entheses, defined above).
  • Absence of positive blood test for rheumatoid factor (‘seronegative’).
  • A tendency to occur in more than one family member.

Diagnosis of spondyloarthritis

In addition to taking a history and examination, your doctor may recommend certain blood tests such as a Full Blood Count, ESR, HLA-B27, and x-rays of the spine and pelvis to support the diagnosis.

HLA-B27 is a known genetic marker for ankylosing spondylitis. However, most HLA-B27 individuals do not have the disease, therefore it is not advisable to have the test if you do not have symptoms of ankylosing spondylitis, even if you have an affected relative.

Prevention of spondyloarthritis

Although there is no prevention or cure for spondyloarthritis, the awareness of risk factors and symptoms allows for early detection and treatment. Contact your doctor if you have symptoms suggestive of spondyloarthritis or if you have already been diagnosed with it and new symptoms or complications develop.

Learn about the different types of spondyloarthritis in the next page.

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