Guide to Ankylosing Spondylitis Drug Treatments

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Ankylosing spondylitis is a chronic condition characterized by inflammation that primarily causes pain in the joints located between each spinal vertebrae and the joints located between the pelvis and spine (referred to as the sacroiliac joints). However, patients with this condition may experience pain and inflammation in other areas of their body as well. Also sometimes referred to as rheumatoid spondylitis, or just spondylitis, ankylosing spondylitis drug treatments are focused on lessening the patient’s symptoms and decreasing their pain.

Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs

This type of drug, also referred to as NSAIDs, is the most commonly prescribed medication for this condition. These medications can help to alleviate inflammation, as well as stiffness and pain. Indomethacin and naproxen are some of the most commonly prescribed NSAIDs. These medications may cause side effects, such as diarrhea, gas, headache, thirst, drowsiness, cold symptoms, hearing problems, constipation, mouth sores, dizziness, feeling lightheaded, arm and leg tingling, ringing in the ears, or sleeping difficulties. More serious side effects include gastrointestinal bleeding, and liver or kidney problems.


This type of drug may be prescribed in more severe cases to help slow joint damage and suppress inflammation. Prednisone is a commonly prescribed corticosteroid. This type of drug is ideally only taken for a short period of time due to side effects like bone loss. This type of drug may also be directly injected into the painful joint. Short-term oral use of this type of drug may cause elevated pressure in the eyes, increased blood pressure, weight gain, mood swings, and fluid retention that may result in lower leg swelling. Long-term oral use of this type of drug may include cataracts, high blood sugar, menstrual irregularities, thin skin, slower wound healing, increased risk of infections, bruising easily, adrenal gland hormone production suppression, and loss of calcium from bones, possibly resulting in fractures and osteoporosis.

Disease-Modifying Antirheumatic Drugs

Also referred to as DMARDs, this type of medication may be prescribed to treat inflammation affecting the joints in the arms, legs, and other tissues. This type of drug may help in limiting how much joint damage occurs. Commonly prescribed DMARDs include methotrexate or sulfasalazine. Common side effects may include nausea, stomach pain, dizziness, vomiting, or drowsiness. Serious side effects may include mouth sores, fever, persistent sore throat, black stools, enlarged lymph nodes or glands, bone pain, diarrhea, fatigue, unusual bruising or bleeding, skin rash, dark urine, skin discoloration, unusual pain, jaundice, chest pain, trouble breathing, vision changes, irregular heartbeat, mental changes or mood changes, amount of urine changes, dry cough, calf swelling or pain, muscle weakness, and seizures. Temporary hair loss is also possible.

Tumor Necrosis Factor Blockers

Also referred to as TNF, this type of drug is a cell protein, or cytokine, that acts as an inflammatory agent in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. This type of medication blocks or targets this protein helping to reduce, stiffness, pain, and swollen or tender joints. This medication may help to improve stiffness and pain for patients with this condition. When used as an ankylosing spondylitis drug treatment, adalimumab, infliximab, and etanercept are commonly prescribed. Possible side effects include irregular/pounding/fast heartbeat, blood in the stools, severe headache, dark urine, leg pain or swelling, unsteadiness, vision changes, joint pain, chest pain, seizures, stomach pain, mental/mood changes, bleeding or bruising easily, jaundice, hand/feet tingling/numbness, unexplained muscle weakness, rash shaped like a butterfly on the cheeks and nose, chills, persistent sore throat, frequent or painful urination, unusual vaginal discharge, fever, night sweats, trouble breathing, persistent cough, and oral thrush.


MedlinePlus. (2010). Ankylosing Spondylitis. Retrieved on September 14, 2010 from MedlinePlus: (2009). Ankylosing Spondylitis. Retrieved on September 14, 2010 from