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Spondyloarthropathy Explained

A Group of Closely Related Inflammatory Conditions

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Updated June 05, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

What Is Spondyloarthropathy?

Spondyloarthropathy (also known as spondyloarthritis) refers to a group of inflammatory rheumatic diseases with common characteristics that can include inflammation of the spine, eye, gastrointestinal tract, and skin. Other joints can be involved, as can tendons and ligaments near the spine or affected joint. Spondyloarthropathies have been linked to the HLA-B27 gene. Patients with a spondyloarthropathy are typically negative for rheumatoid factor (seronegative).

The Spondyloarthropathies

The following conditions are classified as spondyloarthropathies:

  • Ankylosing spondylitis
  • Psoriatic arthritis
  • Reactive arthritis
  • Enteropathic arthritis
  • Undifferentiated spondyloarthropathy
  • Juvenile spondyloarthropathy

Ankylosing spondylitis is a type of arthritis primarily characterized by chronic inflammation of the joints and ligaments of the spine, causing pain and stiffness in the spine. In severe cases, bones in the spine may fuse (also referred to as ankylosis) resulting in a rigid and inflexible spine. Abnormal posture may be a consequence. Other joints also may be involved including hips, knees, ankles, neck, or shoulders. The disease may also have systemic effects (affecting various organs of the body).

Psoriatic arthritis is a type of arthritis associated with psoriasis (a skin condition characterized by red, patchy, raised or scaly areas) and chronic joint symptoms. The symptoms of psoriasis and joint inflammation often develop separately. In 85 percent of patients, symptoms of psoriasis precede arthritis symptoms. Arthritis develops before psoriasis in up to 15 percent of patients.

Reactive arthritis is an arthritis associated with pain and swelling that occurs from one to 4 weeks after an infection. Reactive arthritis is characterized by asymmetric swelling in 1 to several joints. While most cases resolve on their own, some patients do get persistent disease or symptoms that remit and relapse.

Enteropathic arthritis is a chronic type of inflammatory arthritis associated with the inflammatory bowel diseases ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease. The most commonly affected areas include inflammation of the peripheral joints, along with some abdominal discomfort. The entire spine can become involved in some patients.

Undifferentiated spondyloarthropathy is the classification given to a patient with signs of spondylitis -- but lacking certain criteria necessary for a definitive diagnosis of ankylosing spondylitis or another spondyloarthropathy.

Juvenile spondyloarthropathies are a group of conditions that develop before age 16 but may last thoughout adulthood. Juvenile spondyloarthropathies include undifferentiated spondyloarthropathy, juvenile ankylosing spondylitis, psoriatic arthritis, reactive arthritis and spondylitis of inflammatory bowel diseases.

Sources:

Ankylosing Spondylitis and Related Diseases - An Overview. Spondylitis Association of America. Accessed February 28, 2010.
http://www.spondylitis.org/about/overview.aspx

Spondyloarthropathy. Cleveland Clinic. Accessed February 28, 2010.
http://my.clevelandclinic.org/disorders/spondylitis/hic_spondyloarthropathy.aspx

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