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What causes ankylosing spondylitis?

What causes ankylosing spondylitis?

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Inflammation is a natural process that your body normally uses to protect itself from harm. Inflammation is behind the pain and swelling you feel from:

  • Bumping your knee
  • An infection in your throat
  • Burning your hand while cooking
  • A sunburn
  • A paper cut
  • Etc. 

Ankylosing spondylitis is caused by a malfunction of the immune system, in which your immune system mistakenly attacks healthy cells in your own body - in this case in your vertebrae. Scientists are not sure why this happens, but the nature of AS puts it in the category of “autoimmune diseases”. 

Scientists are studying the potential causes:

  • Genetics: some people have genes that set them up to develop ankylosing spondylitis - although carrying these genes is not enough to develop the disease
  • Triggering event: the condition is set off when the body reacts to a stressful period in life, an infection, or something else in the environment
  • Family link: someone who has a relative with AS is also at higher risk of developing the disease
  • Gender: ankylosing spondylitis affects men and women equally