The Back Bone is Connected to the… Eye Bone?

Think you know all there is to know about ankylosing spondylitis (AS)?

Think again.

New research has revealed that people with AS are at a greater risk for having acute anterior uveitis. Great, more medical jargon, right?

Acute anterior uveitis is sudden, severe inflammation in the front part of the eye. And, unfortunately for people with autoimmune diseases, including AS, it’s not uncommon.

Example of anterior uveitis which can occur in ankylosing spondylitis patients.
Anterior uveitis inflammation can be identified by the severe redness,and untreated, can cause loss of vision. Source: UMICH.edu

But how likely is it that you’ll get uveitis if you have AS? According to a study in the July Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases, the risk of uveitis in people with ankylosing spondylitis is almost 16-fold greater than the general population.

And that’s not all. They also studied other extra-articular (occurring outside of the joints) manifestations of AS, specifically irritable bowel syndrome and psoriasis. Can you guess what they found?

Yep, people with AS have a 3-fold greater chance of inflammatory bowel disease and an almost 2-fold greater chance of psoriasis. Of the people in the study who had these manifestations in AS, a large number of them already occurred when the person was diagnosed with AS.

Finally, something positive! Since autoimmune diseases tend to have a lot of overlap, these types of extra manifestations of AS can help doctors figure out which autoimmune disease a person has. Increasing this knowledge could help avoid a misdiagnosis, and even get people an accurate diagnosis sooner!

Doctor shrugging
Given the high rates of misdiagnosis for rheumatoid arthritis patients, anything that can help diagnosis AS patients is good news. Even though it may be autoimmune diseases doing the job.

But the implications of this study go far beyond that. It also found that during the first year after an AS diagnosis, a person has the highest chance of developing these manifestations. And while after that year there is still a higher risk of developing uveitis, the risk of inflammatory bowel disease and psoriasis actually decrease.

With this information, doctors and patients alike can be on the lookout for signs and symptoms that the eyes, digestive system, and/or skin are being negatively affected. Not only will this hopefully help doctors figure out accurate treatments sooner, it will hopefully help you get relief sooner!


Share this article to inform those at the risk of ankylosing spondylitis or who may have been diagnosed that the spine isn’t the only thing that should be examined on their next visit.

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