Ankylosing spondylitis is sure a mouthful!
If we break down the name, though, we can learn a lot about the disease before we even get into specifics.
Ankylosis - meaning stiffness or immobility of a joint
Spondylitis - meaning inflammation of the vertebrae
AS is a type of autoimmune arthritis that affects the spine primarily. It affects men more than women and can, over time, fuse the vertebrae in your back. Most specifically, the SI joints can become affected.
Other areas of the body that can be affected are the eyes, shoulders, and hands and feet.
AS is one of the autoimmune arthritis types that actually has a genetic marker - HLA-B27. If you have this marker, it doesn't mean you'll have AS - and you can even have AS without it - so it may not be of much help. In addition to blood tests, a person will undergo imaging tests to check out the areas most affected.
Medications for AS are pretty much those you've come to expect from autoimmune arthritis/rheumatic diseases - NSAIDs, methotrexate, TNF inhibitors like Enbrel, etc. Physical therapy and surgery can help as well.
Moving and stretching is incredibly important with AS.