Drinking Alcohol May Be Associated with Progression of Spinal Structural Damage in Axial Spondyloarthritis

By Spondylitis Association of America

Monday, October 28, 2019

A recent cohort study suggests that alcohol consumption may be associated with progression of spinal structural damage in axial spondyloarthritis.

The two-year long, prospective cohort study analyzed participant medical records using bloodwork and x-ray imaging data, disease activity, and demographic information. Data was acquired from patients at St. Mary’s Hospital, in Seoul, South Korea. To find a direct association between alcohol consumption and spinal disease progression, participants completed a questionnaire to record their pure alcohol consumption by units per week, types of alcohol consumed, and occasion in which it was consumed. Groups were divided into non-drinkers (those who do not drink at all) and alcohol drinkers (those who have at least 1 unit of alcohol a week, which is 8 grams of pure alcohol). For reference, 5 fl oz of wine, has about 14 grams of pure alcohol. Of the 278 participants, 206 were identified as drinkers and 72 were nondrinkers.

During the two year-long study, researchers used the Stoke Ankylosing Spondylitis Spinal Score (mSASSS), a four-point scoring system measuring disease progression through scoring and tracking x-rays of the lower back and neck over time. Results showed a substantial difference in those who drank and those who didn’t drink (2.7 vs. 1.5). The frequency of these changes within the two years was also twice as high in drinkers (60.7%) compared to non-drinkers (29.2%). Furthermore, changes in syndesmophyte count1 was more evident among drinkers compared with nondrinkers (0.9 vs. 0.4).

This is the first time a study has linked alcohol consumption to the progression of spinal damage in axial spondyloarthritis, and more research is needed. The authors hope that further clinical and data analysis will further confirm this correlation.


[1] Syndesmophyte - defined as bony growth inside the ligaments of the joints in the spine, leading to spinal fusion.


Min HK, et al. Arthritis Res Ther. 2019;doi:10.1186/s13075-019-1970-3. August 28. “Drinking Alcohol Linked to Spinal Structural Damage in Axial SpA.” Healio, www.healio.com/rheumatology/spondyloarthropathies/news/online/%7B5e5a1873-f08a-48f8-b844-ed5bb9acb378%7D/drinking-alcohol-linked-to-spinal-structural-damage-in-axial-spa.

“Alcohol Consumption as a Predictor of the Progression of Spinal Structural Damage in Axial Spondyloarthritis: Data from the Catholic Axial Spondyloarthritis COhort (CASCO).” Docwire News, 28 Aug. 2019, www.docwirenews.com/abstracts/rheumatology-abstracts/alcohol-consumption-as-a-predictor-of-the-progression-of-spinal-structural-damage-in-axial-spondyloarthritis-data-from-the-catholic-axial-spondyloarthritis-cohort-casco/.

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