​Continued from previous page.

Ankylosing spondylitis tends to begin between the ages of 20 to 40 and both males and females are equally at risk.

Causes and risk factors for ankylosing spondylitis

The exact cause of ankylosing spondylitis is unknown. However, there is evidence of a genetic factor – the gene HLA-B27 – associated with the disease. People with this gene are thought to be at higher risk of developing ankylosing spondylitis. A child has a 15 per cent chance of developing the disease if a parent has it.

In the past, it was thought that males were more likely to develop the disease than females, however, recent data shows that females are equally at risk. At SGH, our data shows that females account for more than 30 per cent of all patients with ankylosing spondylitis.

DIAGNOSING ankylosing spondylitis

The diagnosis of ankylosing spondylitis is based on the patient’s symptoms, imaging tests, an examination of the spine and family history.

“There is no cure for ankylosing spondylitis but early diagnosis and treatment can reduce the progression of the disease. The challenge is in diagnosing the condition early, as our record shows that on average, patients are only diagnosed with this condition 5 years after the onset of symptoms. A lot of patients suffer from the pain and stiffness during the most productive years of their lives, affecting their work and studies, but early treatment can change that,” says Dr Lui Nai Lee, Visiting Consultant at the Department of Rheumatology and Immunology and the Autoimmunity and Rheumatology Centre, Singapore General Hospital (SGH), a member of the SingHealth group.

Early treatment of the condition can reduce the rate of disease progression and help prevent the severe, long-term consequences of this inflammatory condition, such as a twisted or severely hunched back, blindness and heart problems. It can also help improve work productivity in patients with this condition.

Read on to learn about ankylosing spondylitis treatment.

Ref. S13