Ankylosing spondylitis is a progressive disease, meaning it worsens as time passes. Eventually, AS can cause joint damage and disability. Often, people may experience remission (a period free of AS symptoms), but the symptoms return (called "flares") and cause acute pain.
If AS is left untreated, the disease can keep "smouldering" in your body. Inflammation in the spine can progress and cause changes in the spinal column. When the body tries to repair itself after inflammation, scarring and extra bone growth occur that can fuse together the spinal joints. This is called ankylosis. This can also lead to an increased risk of spinal fractures. AS leads to stiffness, pain, joint damage, and reduced mobility, making it harder for you to do your usual activities.
Taking control of the disease means finding ways to slow the progression of AS. Even if you are feeling better with your AS treatment, the disease may still be progressing. There are ways for you and your doctor to see if your AS is progressing. See Impact of AS for more information.
Early diagnosis and treatment can help reduce the symptoms of AS, can help minimize severe damage to joints, and may even help slow down the progression of AS. Successful management of AS means living your life the way you want to. Talk to your doctor about finding an AS treatment plan that will fit into your life.