Iritis and Arthritis of the Spine

“Iritis can be linked to a type of arthritis of the spine”

Up to 30% of people who have iritis (or uveitis) have an associated type of arthritis of the spine known as “Ankylosing Spondylitis”, or AS. This specific form of arthritis causes inflammation in the connective tissues and joints of their spine, sacroiliac joints (at the sides of the tailbone), muscles and ligaments. This is different from another type of back arthritis known as degenerative disc disease.

The most common signs and symptoms that people with Ankylosing Spondylitis have include: pain and stiffness of the spine and neck, buttock/hip pain, waking up at night because of back pain and/or stiffness, difficulties bending over or turning the neck side-to-side. Often, people will take a lot of anti-inflammatories like ibuprofen because they help the pain. However, the symptoms may be relatively minor even though there may be significant joint damage in the spine. If left untreated, this disease may result in complete fusion of all the bones in the spine leading to complete spinal rigidity and inability to move. Fortunately, highly effective therapy is available for this condition. There are also several other medical conditions that are associated with this type of arthritis including: inflammatory bowel disease (eg. Crohn’s disease, Ulcerative Colitis) and psoriasis (scaling skin condition). These conditions may also be serious if left untreated.

If you have had or have iritis/uveitis and are wondering if you may have Ankylosing Spondylitis, please call Dr. W. Maksymowych or Dr. S. Keeling at the number below. These rheumatologists (arthritis specialists) at the University of Alberta Hospital will provide a complete medical assessment to look for this condition, including a complete MRI of the spine, and report the results to your family doctor. If you require any specific therapy, this will be offered to you.