Updated 28 March 2019

Ankylosing spondylitis

This is a rheumatic disease that causes arthritis of the spine and sacroiliac joints.

Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) is a rheumatic disease that causes arthritis of the spine and sacroiliac joints and can cause inflammation of the eyes, lungs, and heart valves.

It varies from intermittent episodes of back pain that start in early adulthood sand continue throughout life to a severe chronic disease that attacks the spine, peripheral joints and other body organs, resulting in severe joint and back stiffness, loss of motion and deformity as life progresses.

AS is one of a group of diseases that attack the spine called spondylarthropathies. In addition to AS, these diseases include reactive arthritis (Reiter’s syndrome), some cases of psoriatic arthritis and arthritis associated with inflammatory bowel disease.

As the inflammation subsides, bone grows out from both sides of the vertebrae, resulting in the bones of the spine becoming fused (joined together). This stiffening is called ankylosis. This condition is not common in men. 



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Professor Asgar Ali Kalla completed his MBChB (Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery) degree in 1975 at the University of Cape Town and his FRCP in 2003 in London. Professor Ali Kalla is the Isaac Albow Chair of Rheumatology at the University of Cape Town and also the Head of Division of Rheumatology at Groote Schuur Hospital. He has participated in a number of clinical trials for rheumatology and is active in community outreach. Prof Ali Kalla is an expert in Arthritis for Health24.

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