Glossary of AxSpA/AS

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: May 2020 | Last updated: May 2020

When you get a diagnosis, you will often see a lot of abbreviations and a lot of names of diseases or conditions associated with your diagnosis. Without knowing a condition’s proper terms or abbreviations, understanding your situation can be overwhelming or intimidating. Having access to the various terms you’re likely to run into and the different abbreviations for conditions can make learning about your condition a lot easier.

The following are some common terms and abbreviations you may see when reading about axial spondyloarthritis (AxSpA).

Spondyloarthritis (SpA)

Spondyloarthritis is often abbreviated as SpA. It is a general term that includes many different inflammatory diseases that affect both joints and the places where joints and ligaments attach to bones, called entheses.1 In the majority of cases, spondyloarthritis mostly affects the spine.1 In some people, it can also affect the arms, legs, hands, and feet. In many cases, the damage or changes to joints can be seen on an X-ray. If you have symptoms but nothing is seen on an X-ray, an MRI might be done, as this can see changes caused by SpA before an X-ray can.1

Peripheral spondyloarthritis (pSpA)

Peripheral spondyloarthritis, known as pSpA, causes inflammation in joints and tendons in other places besides the spine and pelvis. Often the inflammation occurs in the hands, feet, wrists, elbows, shoulders, knees, and ankles.2 The tendons of the fingers and toes can become inflamed as well.

While some people have AxSpa or pSpA, it is possible to have both.

Axial spondyloarthritis (AxSpA)

Axial spondyloarthritis, or AxSpA, is a condition that causes inflammation in the spine and/or pelvis.2 The sacroiliac (SI) joints are where the base of the spine meet the pelvic bones. When these become inflamed it is called

.3 The inflammation in AxSpA typically results in lower back pain. The spectrum of AxSpA can include those who show inflammatory changes on X-ray, but also those who do not show any changes in imaging tests.

Non-radiographic axial spondyloarthritis (nr-AxSpA)

Non-radiographic axial spondyloarthritis is typically abbreviated as nr-AxSpA. It describes those with AxSpA who do not have any joint damage or changes like sacroiliitis that can be seen on X-ray.2 Just because those changes caused by the disease aren’t visible, doesn’t mean that you don’t have the condition.

Radiographic axial spondyloarthritis (r-AxSpA)

In contrast to the above, in radiographic axial spondyloarthritis, or r-AxSpA, joint damage and changes caused by the condition can be seen on X-ray.2

Ankylosing spondylitis (AS)

Ankylosing spondylitis, known as AS, is a chronic form of joint inflammation (sometimes referred to as chronic inflammatory arthritis) that mainly affects the spine.3 It usually has an onset in adolescence or early adulthood, with symptoms like back pain or stiffness. As the condition progresses, the bones of the spine fuse together because of the new bone formation that is characteristic of the condition.

If you’re ever reading about AxSpA or related conditions and come across a term or abbreviation you don’t know, ask your doctor. The doctors and nurses will be happy to explain any terms or abbreviations and help you better understand the information you’ve found.

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