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Ankylosing spondylitis dictionary

Becoming familiar with words and phrases related to ankylosing spondylitis will help you talk to your healthcare providers about the disease and the steps you can take to help manage it.

Achilles tendinitis: Inflammation of the Achilles tendon, a condition that causes pain along the back of the leg near the heel.

Amyloid nephropathy: Kidney disease caused by systemic amyloidosis (see amyloidosis).

Amyloidosis: A disorder of protein metabolism involving deposits of abnormal protein strands throughout multiple organ systems of the body that can cause organ dysfunction.

Anemia: Abnormally low levels of healthy red blood cells or of hemoglobin (the component that carries oxygen).

Ankylosing, Ankylosis: A stiffening or fusion of a joint.

Ankylosing spondylitis (AS): A type of arthritis that most commonly affects the bones and joints at the base of the spine where it connects with the pelvis, but may affect other joints as well.

Antibody: A protein produced by the body's immune system when it detects substances perceived as harmful, called antigens (such as bacteria, fungi, parasites, viruses, and certain chemicals). Antibodies may also be produced when the immune system mistakenly considers healthy tissue a harmful substance.

Antigen: A substance capable of eliciting an immune response or of binding with an antibody.

Anti-TNF therapy: A medicine that works by blocking a pro-inflammatory protein called tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-alpha in the body (see tumor necrosis factor).

Arthritis: Inflammation of one or more joints. There are over 100 kinds of arthritis.

Autoantibodies: Antibodies that mistakenly target and damage specific tissues or organs of the body (see antibodies).

Autoimmune disorder/disease: A condition caused by the immune system attacking healthy cells or tissues in the body by mistake.

Axial skeleton: The 80 bones of the skeleton that form the vertical axis of the body. They include the bones of the head, vertebral column, ribs, and breastbone.

Bath Ankylosing Spondylitis Disease Activity Index (BASDAI): An index used to measure patient-reported disease activity in patients with AS. The index includes patient-reported levels of back pain, fatigue, peripheral joint pain and swelling, localized tenderness, and the duration and severity of morning stiffness.

Bath Ankylosing Spondylitis Functional Index (BASFI): An index that uses a set of 10 questions to determine the degree of functional limitation in patients with AS.

Biologic: A substance originating from a living source that is used to treat disease. Biologic agents used in autoimmune diseases often block proteins involved with inflammation in the body.

Calcaneal spur: A bony growth (also called a heel spur) on the back or underside of the heel bone, which can cause heel pain.

Cartilage: A tough but flexible connective tissue that covers the ends of bones at a joint. It also protects bones by preventing them from rubbing against each other. When injured, inflamed, or damaged, cartilage can cause pain and limited movement.

Colitis: Inflammation of the large intestine.

Complete blood count (CBC): A test that measures several components and features of blood, including red blood cells, white blood cells, hemoglobin, hematocrit, and platelets.

Corticosteroids: Drugs similar to the cortisol made by the body. They fight inflammation.

C-reactive protein (CRP): A protein made by the liver. High CRP levels in the blood are a sign of inflammation.

Enthesitis: Inflammation of entheses (sites where ligaments, tendons, and fascia attach to bone).

Erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR): A test that indirectly measures how much inflammation is in the body by documenting how long it takes red blood cells (erythrocytes) to fall to the bottom of a tall, thin tube. ESR is often higher than normal in people with an autoimmune disorder.

Extra-articular manifestations: Complications of arthritis that affect parts of the body other than the joints. The most common extra-articular manifestations in AS include eye inflammation, inflammatory bowel disease (see colitis), and heart, lung, skin, bone, and kidney involvement (see amyloid nephropathy).

Fatigue: A feeling of tiredness and lack of motivation (physical or mental). Fatigue may be a normal response to physical and mental activity, but it can also be due to an illness or a side effect of certain medications.

Flares, flare-ups: An increase in the severity of a person's clinical disease symptoms.

Human leukocyte antigens (HLAs): Antigens (substances that cause the immune system to produce antibodies) found in large numbers on the surface of white blood cells. They help the immune system tell the difference between body tissues and substances that are not from your own body.

HLA-B27 (Human leukocyte antigen B27): A genetic marker often, but not always, found in the blood of patients with certain forms of arthritis, such as reactive arthritis and AS.

Immune-mediated disease: A condition that results from abnormal activity of the body's immune system. This includes autoimmune disorders, immunodeficiency disorders, and excessive immune responses (such as an allergic reaction).

Inflammation: A reaction of body tissues to injury or disease, marked by 5 potential signs: swelling, redness, heat, pain, and loss of function.

Interleukin 1 receptor antagonist (IL-1Ra): A protein elevated in the blood of patients with various conditions, including immune disorders.

Iritis: Inflammation of the eye that can cause eye pain and increased sensitivity to light (photophobia).

Joint replacement: Surgery to remove a damaged joint such as the knee, hip, or shoulder, and put in a new, artificial one.

Kyphosis: A spinal deformity marked by severely stooped posture. It can be an advanced manifestation of AS.

Lifestyle modification: Non-drug strategies to potentially reduce symptoms. Also called behavior modification, this includes modifications in lifestyle such as eating a healthy diet, smoking cessation, and appropriate exercise.

Ligament: A band of fibrous tissue that connects 2 or more bones at a joint.

Low back pain (inflammatory): A type of chronic back pain that typically worsens with immobility, especially at night and early morning. This type of low back pain and stiffness tends to ease with physical activity and exercise. It is often helped by NSAIDs.

Lumbar spine: The part of the spine consisting of 5 lumbar vertebrae at the inward curve (small) of the lower back (see vertebrae).

Lung fibrosis: A disease that causes continuous scarring of the lung tissue.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): An imaging technique that uses energy from a powerful magnet to produce signals that are detected by a scanner and analyzed by a computer. This produces a series of cross-sectional images ("slices") and/or a 3-dimensional view of parts of the body. An MRI is particularly sensitive for detecting damage or disease of soft tissues, such as the discs between vertebrae or ligaments (see vertebrae, ligaments).

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): A class of drugs that may relieve symptoms of inflammation like pain and swelling. Aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen are examples of NSAIDs.

Oligoarthritis: Inflammatory arthritis characterized by swelling of only a few joints.

Osteopenia: Bone density that is not normal but also is not as low as in osteoporosis (see osteoporosis).

Osteoporosis: A condition in which bones lose density, become fragile, and more likely to fracture.

Osteotomy: Surgery involving repositioning of bones to relieve the pain and disability of arthritis. In very rare cases, osteotomy may be used to straighten a spine that has fused into a curved-forward position.

Peripheral joints: Joints other than the spine, such as hip, ankle, elbow, knee, heel, and shoulder joints.

Physical therapy: Rehabilitation to help improve strength, mobility, and fitness.

Posture: The position of a person's body when standing or sitting. To check if posture is good, stand in front of a mirror and see if a line could pass through your earlobe, the front of your shoulder, the center of your hip, behind your kneecap, and in front of your anklebone.

Range-of-motion exercises: Exercises designed to improve movement and flexibility and reduce stiffness in the affected joint. If the spine is painful and/or inflamed, exercises to stretch and extend the back can be helpful in preventing long-term disability.

Referred pain: Pain felt in one area of the body that does not accurately represent where the problem originates.

Rheumatologist: A physician who specializes in rheumatology and diagnoses (detects), treats, and medically manages patients with arthritis and other rheumatic diseases.

Sacroiliac joint: The place where the sacrum and the iliac bones join. Located at the base of the spine, the sacrum is made up of 5 vertebrae that are fused together. The iliac bones are part of the 2 large bones that make up your pelvis. The sacrum sits in the middle of the iliac bones (see vertebrae).

Sacroiliitis: Inflammation of one or both of the sacroiliac joints (where the lower spine and pelvis connect). Sacroiliitis can cause pain in the buttocks or lower back and may extend down one or both legs.

Schober test: A test used to measure the range of lumbar spine motion.

Spinal fracture: A break in the bones of the spinal column. A spinal fracture is a potentially serious complication of AS and can occur with even minor trauma because of the rigidity and osteoporotic involvement of the spine in AS (see osteoporosis).

Spinal fusion: Spinal fusion is surgery to permanently join together 2 or more vertebrae so there is no movement between them (see vertebrae). Spinal fusion may also occur spontaneously in AS as a result of the disease itself.

Spondylitis: Inflammation in the spine or vertebrae (see vertebrae). Other joints may be affected as well.

Spondyloarthritis: A family of inflammatory rheumatic diseases that cause arthritis. The most common is AS. This group of disorders shares several common features, including a strong predilection for the spine and, in particular, the sacroiliac joints.

Strengthening exercises: Exercises such as weight lifting that maintain or increase muscle strength. Strong muscles help support and protect joints affected by arthritis.

Syndesmophytes: Abnormal bony growths attached to a ligament found between adjacent vertebrae in AS (see vertebrae). AS patients with existing syndesmophytes are prone to develop new ones over time.

Tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-α): An inflammation-causing cytokine (a type of small protein important in cell signaling) that is implicated in a variety of diseases, including autoimmune diseases.

Vertebrae: Twenty-six bone discs that comprise your backbone, or spine. The vertebrae protect your spinal cord and allow you to stand and bend.

X-rays: Images that create pictures of the inside of your body. The images show the parts of your body in different shades of black and white. This is because different tissues absorb different amounts of radiation.


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Ankylosing Spondylitis. National Institutes of Health. MedlinePlus. December 2013. Accessed August 5, 2014.

Ankylosing Spondylitis: Overview, Diagnosis. Spondylitis Association of America. and as_diag. aspx. 2013. Accessed August 5, 2014.

Benhamou M, Gossec L, Dougados M. Clinical relevance of C-reactive protein in ankylosing spondylitis and evaluation of the NSAIDs/coxibs' treatment effect on C-reactive protein. Rheumatology (Oxford). March 2010. 49(3):536-41. Epub December 2009. Accessed August 5, 2014.

Braun J, Kalden JR. Biologics in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis. Clinical Experimental Rheumatology. pubmed/19822066. July 2009;27(4 Suppl 55):S164-7. Accessed August 5, 2014.

Brent L, Diamond H. Ankylosing Spondylitis and Undifferentiated Spondyloarthropathy Clinical Presentation. Medscape. article/332945-clinical. November 2013. Accessed August 5, 2014.

Dugdale D. HLA-B27 antigen. U.S. National Library of Medicine. MedlinePlus. May 5, 2013. Accessed August 5, 2014.

Heuft-Dorenbosch L, Spoorenberg A, van Tubergen A, et al. Assessment of enthesitis in ankylosing spondylitis. Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases. February 2003;62(2):127-132. Accessed August 5, 2014.

Levine DS, Forbat SM, Saifuddin A. MRI of the axial skeletal manifestations of ankylosing spondylitis. Clinical Radiology. pubmed/15081845. May 2004;59(5):400-13. Accessed August 5, 2014.

Questions and Answers about Ankylosing Spondylitis. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Disease. Ankylosing_ Spondylitis/. January 2013. Accessed August 5, 2014.

Simmons ED, DiStefano RJ, Zheng Y, et al. Thirty-six years experience of cervical extension osteotomy in ankylosing spondylitis: techniques and outcomes. Spine. December 15, 2006;31(26):3006-12. Accessed August 5, 2014.

Slobodin G, Rosner I, Odeh M. Bone formation in ankylosing spondylitis. OA Arthritis. March 2013;1(1):7. Accessed August 5, 2014.

Smolen JS, Braun J, Dougados M, et al. Treating spondyloarthritis, including ankylosing spondylitis and psoriatic arthritis, to target: recommendations of an international task force. Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases. January 2014. Accessed August 5, 2014.

Spondylarthritis (Spondylarthropathy). American College of Rheumatology. Spondylarthritis_(Spondylarthropathy)/. November 2012. Accessed August 5, 2014.

Starkebaum, G. Ankylosing spondylitis. MedlinePlus. August 2014. Accessed August 5, 2014.

Uveitis. U.S. National Library of Medicine. PubMed Health. September 3, 2014. Accessed August 5, 2014.

Wright C, Sibani S, Trudgian D, et al. Detection of multiple autoantibodies in patients with ankylosing spondylitis using nucleic acid programmable protein arrays. Molecular & Cellular Proteomics. February 2012. 11(2):M9.00384. Accessed August 5, 2014.

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