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Ankylosing Spondylitis in Women vs. Men

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  • Ankylosing spondylitis and your gender

    Ankylosing spondylitis and your gender

    Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) is a form of arthritis. Also called rheumatoid spondylitis, AS is considered a chronic inflammatory disease that affects your spine. It causes pain and limits your range of motion.

    While the condition is most prevalent in men, women aren’t immune to the disease. However, men and women are likely to experience different symptoms, which can affect diagnosis and treatment methods.

  • Causes and primary symptoms

    Causes and primary symptoms

    AS occurs when the spinal vertebral bodies, and the ligaments and tendons that attach to these bones of the spine, become inflamed. Over time, this swelling causes severe problems within your back.

    At first, you may experience chronic back pain or overall stiffness. As the AS progresses, the pain can become debilitating and cause a reduced range of motion. Extreme fatigue is also a common symptom in both men and women.

  • Genetic predisposition

    Genetic predisposition

    Many medical professionals believe that AS is genetic. Most people with AS have a gene called HLA-B27. While having HLA-B27 can increase your risk for developing AS, it doesn’t mean that all men and women with this gene will have this form of arthritis.

  • Age


    Arthritis is often considered a disease that comes about with age. But AS commonly occurs in people between the ages of 17 to 45.

    Some people are diagnosed as early as adolescence. The age of onset and genetic risk factors are about the same in both men and women.

  • Severity of pain

    Severity of pain

    While the primary symptoms of AS are similar between sexes, symptoms tend to be more severe in males. But this doesn’t mean that AS-related pain is exclusive to men.

    The progression of AS in women is slower that it is in men, making them more likely to have mild pain at first. In fact, women may at first mistake the pain for fibromyalgia and receive an incorrect diagnosis.

  • Pain location

    Pain location

    Aside from differences in the severity of pain, men and women may also experience pain in different parts of the body. Men are most prone to pain in their spine and lower back. Women usually have pain located in their neck, hips, and knees. These differences are another reason men have an easier time receiving an AS diagnosis.

  • Reproductive health concerns

    Reproductive health concerns

    AS affects men and women during their peak reproductive years. This can decrease sperm count in men, negatively affecting fertility.

    Women who are pregnant or who are trying to conceive should also work with their doctors to obtain the right medications. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen (Advil) often help relieve pain from AS, but can cause harm to your unborn child.

  • Mental health

    Mental health

    Studies have found that depression is common in people with AS. Men with AS may acknowledge problems with depression more openly than women. Some women may inaccurately attribute mental health issues to hormones.

  • Seeking help

    Seeking help

    There’s currently no cure for AS, but early detection and treatment can help alleviate pain and any related issues in both men and women. Understanding the differences in symptoms can help men and women seek medical help in a more timely fashion.