4 Complications of Ankylosing Spondylitis

Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
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  • Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) is different for everyone. You might experience mild back pain that comes and goes, while your friend may feel severe back pain every day. Still others may experience joint pain in places like their hips, knees, and feet. Complications from AS vary, too. That’s why it’s important to work with your health care provider. Seeing a rheumatologist once a year will help catch complications early, when they're easier to treat.

  • 1
    Doctor looking at spine X-ray

    In severe cases of AS, bony growths called syndesmophytes develop. Syndesmophytes cause spine vertebrae to fuse together. The newly joined bones are weak and can restrict your movement. This puts you at greater risk for spinal fracture. Sometimes, progressive fusion of the spine can result in a condition known as kyphosis. This is when your spine curves forward, causing a hunched posture. What’s more, fusion can restrict your lung capacity and function because it stiffens your rib cage. 

  • 2
    Joint Damage
    Tired and Aching Feet

    Sometimes, AS can cause joint problems in places like your shoulders, hips, knees, and feet. Joint damage may be so severe that you may need total joint replacement surgery. This is most commonly performed for your hips and knees in patients with AS. 

  • 3
    Inflammation of the Eye

    Also known as iritis or anterior uveitis, this condition causes redness, pain, sensitivity to light, and vision problems. If you have any of these symptoms, which usually occur in one eye at a time, seek immediate attention from your eye care specialist. It’s often treated with powerful corticosteroid eyedrops and other corticosteroid formulations to reduce the inflammation

  • 4
    Complications in Other Areas
    holding knee

    If you experience pain or symptoms in any part of your body, tell your health care provider immediately. If you've had the disease for a long time, you may develop issues related to the scarring of nerves found at the bottom of your spine. These include urinary and bowel control problems, pain or weakness in your legs, and sexual dysfunction. You may also develop complications affecting your kidney, lung, or heart health. Although rare, these conditions can be serious and require treatment. 

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2022 Aug 23
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THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.
  1. Questions and Answers about Ankylosing Spondylitis. National Institutes of Health. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. http://www.niams.nih.gov/Health_Info/Ankylosing_Spondylitis/#g
  2. Ankylosing Spondylitis. Spondylitis Association of America. https://www.spondylitis.org/Learn-About-Spondyloarthritis/Ankylosing-Spondylitis
  3. Possible Complications of Spondylitis. Spondylitis Association of America. https://www.spondylitis.org/Learn-About-Spondyloarthritis/Possible-Complications-Of-Spondylitis