Spondyloarthritis (or spondyloarthropathy) is a group of inflammatory diseases that cause arthritis in the sites where tendons and ligaments attach to bones (entheses). There are six forms of spondyloarthritis. The most common is ankylosing spondylitis, which mainly affects the spine. Other diseases in the spondyloarthritis family include axial spondyloarthritis (which affects mainly the spine and pelvic joints), peripheral spondyloarthritis (which affects mostly the arms and legs), reactive arthritis (Reiter’s syndrome), psoriatic arthritis, and enteropathic arthritis/spondylitis associated with inflammatory bowel diseases.
Signs and symptoms of spondyloarthritis varies depending on the disease. However, symptoms typically present with redness and swelling (inflammation) that causes pain and stiffness, usually in the spine. Some forms can affect the hands, feet, arms and legs. Another symptom includes destruction of bone that causes spine abnormalities (deformity). Additional complications of spondyloarthritis may include eye inflammation, compression fractures and heart problems. Symptoms usually begin around late adolescence or early adulthood. The exact cause of the spondyloarthritis group of diseases is unknown. They are believed to be due to a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Individuals with the HLA-B27 form of the HLA-B gene are at greater risk of developing ankylosing spondylitis, the most common type of spondyloarthritis.
To diagnose spondyloarthritis, your doctor will gather a medical history and perform a physical exam. In addition, they may collect images of the affected areas. There is no cure for spondyloarthritis, but treatment can include medications to decrease pain. If you or your child has been diagnosed with spondyloarthritis, talk with your doctor to discuss the current treatment options. Support groups can provide additional information and connect you with others.