What are the treatment options for ankylosing spondylitis (AS) and undifferentiated spondyloarthropathy (USpA)?

Updated: Jul 17, 2018
  • Author: Lawrence H Brent, MD; Chief Editor: Herbert S Diamond, MD  more...
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No definite disease-modifying treatment exists for individuals with ankylosing spondylitis (AS). Early diagnosis is important. As with any chronic disease, patient education is vital to familiarize the patient with the symptoms, course, and treatment of the disease. Treatment measures include pharmacologic, surgical, and physical therapy.

No drugs have been proved to modify the course of the disease, although tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α) antagonists appear to have potential as disease-modifying agents. [91] Symptoms are generally not affected by pregnancy or childbirth. Medical management of AS, including medications, must be adjusted during pregnancy in accordance with the specific pregnancy profiles of the medications.

Inpatient care is generally not necessary for patients with AS. The exceptions to this include patients with coexisting or extra-articular disease and those requiring surgery.

Patients with extra-articular manifestations must be treated properly or referred to an appropriate specialist. These extra-articular manifestations include acute anterior uveitis, aortitis, conduction defects, pulmonary fibrosis, amyloidosis, and neurologic deficits, including cauda equina.

Disease progress and response to therapy can be monitored by following laboratory values, including the erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) and C-reactive protein (CRP) level.

Surgical treatment is geared toward resolution of the complications related to AS; it is occasionally useful for correcting spinal deformities or repairing damaged peripheral joints. Patients with fusion of the spine secondary to AS who report a change in position of the spine should be cautiously treated and should be considered to have sustained a spinal fracture. Surgical intervention may be necessary to stabilize the fracture and prevent neurologic deficit. [92, 93]

Outpatient care should be aimed toward providing adequate pain control and maximizing motion and functional ability. Such care includes pain medication, exercise programs, recreational therapy, and vocational therapy. Regular exercise helps reduce the symptoms and may slow the progress of the disease. Generally, no dietary restrictions are implemented for patients with AS; however, patients with coexisting diseases, such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), have dietary restrictions.

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