Ankylosing SpondylitisAS Tests and Diagnosis

Let's Talk About Ankylosing Spondylitis Tests and Diagnosis

Know anyone with back problems? Just about everyone, right? That’s one reason why AS can be difficult to diagnose. We’re here to help speed up the process.

    Our Pro PanelAnkylosing Spondylitis Tests and Diagnosis

    We went to some of the nation’s top experts on AS to bring you the most up-to-date information possible.

    Anca Askanase, M.D. headshot.

    Anca Askanase, M.D.Rheumatologist, Director of Rheumatology Clinical Trials

    Columbia University Medical Center
    New York City
    Howard Blumstein, M.D. headshot.

    Howard Blumstein, M.D.Rheumatologist, Clinical Professor of Medicine

    Stony Brook University
    Smithtown, NY
    Jonathan Greer, M.D. headshot.

    Jonathan Greer, M.D.Rheumatologist, Assistant Clinical Professor of Medicine

    University of Miami
    Palm Beach, FL

    Frequently Asked QuestionsAnkylosing Spondylitis Tests and Diagnosis

    What should I do if my X-rays are negative?

    If you have symptoms of AS but there is no sign of damage on an X-ray, don’t give up! Request that your rheumatologist do an MRI, which can show tissue inflammation that may confirm the diagnosis. If he or she balks, get another opinion from a rheumatologist with specific expertise in AS. The Spondylitis Association of America has a patient-recommended directory of rheumatologists to help you find one.

    What is my prognosis?

    There is no cure for AS, but there are many effective ways to manage it including exercise, NSAIDs, and biologic medications. Many people have only mild to moderate symptoms that never progress to the ankylosis (bone-fusing) stage. In general, men, African Americans, and people who are diagnosed at younger ages tend to have more severe disease activity.

    Will my child have AS?

    We know there is a strong hereditary link, with the vast majority of Caucasian people with AS testing positive for the HLA-B27 genetic marker. Still, the chances of you passing it on to your child are relatively low. There is about a 50% chance that the child of an HLA-B27-positive parent with AS will inherit the gene, but only a very small percentage of those offspring will develop the disorder.

    Will lifestyle changes slow my disease progression?

    Yes! There are things you can do to help keep AS at bay. Exercising regularly is the most critical lifestyle habit to keep your spine and other joints flexible. There’s not a lot of research about the role of specific foods or diets, but we do know obese patients have more severe symptoms, less physical function, and lower response rates to some biologics, so keeping your weight in check is important. And, smoking is associated with higher disease activity and radiographic progression. So no ifs, ands, or butts: Talk to your doctor about quitting cigarettes today.

    Stephanie Wood

    Stephanie Wood

    Stephanie Wood is a award-winning freelance writer and former magazine editor specializing in health, nutrition, wellness, and parenting.