Spondyloarthritis: A Family of Related Diseases


Spondyloarthritis (pronounced spon-dyl-oh-arthritis) is the name given to a group of closely related rheumatic diseases that primarily affect the spine (spondylo) and other joints.

Spondyloarthritis can sometimes be referend to as spondyloarthropathyand informally, spondylitis. The term seronegative can at times precede any of these terms, and simply means that certain antibodies commonly associated with rheumatoid arthritis and other rheumatic diseases did not present in the person’s bloodwork.

(Thus, spondyloarthritis = spondyloarthropathy = spondylitis.)

Common features of spondyloarthritis include inflammatory back pain, as well as pain and inflammation in the pelvis, neck, intestine, eyes, heels, and various larger joints.

Spondyloarthritis, or SpA, is a form of inflammatory arthritis, which usually begins between the ages of 17 and 45. Systemic inflammation is a key feature that helps distinguish spondyloarthritis from other types of arthritis, including wear-and-tear arthritis such as osteoarthritis.

While there is currently no cure for spondyloarthritis, effective treatments include medications, regular exercise, and various complementary therapies.

Reducing systemic inflammation and keeping active are key to minimizing the risk of fusion in the spine, as well as in various other joints and entheses (the connective tissues between tendon/ligament and bone), which is a complication of spondyloarthritis.

This family of diseases is divided into individual categories according to the predominant disease feature(s).

The main similarities that can occur with any type of spondyloarthritis are:

  • Inflammation in the pelvis and spine that usually causes inflammatory back pain
  • Pain and/or swelling of any other joint in the body (hips, knees, ankles, feet, hands, wrists, elbows, shoulders, etc.)
  • Uveitis/iritis , the rapid onset of marked pain and redness in one eye at a time
  • Psoriasis skin rash
  • Inflammation in the intestine (Crohn’s, ulcerative colitis, undifferentiated colitis)
  • Dactylitis, or “sausage digits”, the inflammation along the tendons of the finger or toes
  • Enthesitis, inflammation where tendons and ligaments meet the bone; this commonly occurs at the back or bottom of the heel.
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