What is the Prognosis for Axial Spondyloarthritis?

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

When you’re diagnosed with a medical condition, it’s natural to want to know things like whether there is a cure, your prognosis, and your life expectancy. But it’s often a little more complicated, and each person experiences medical conditions in a different way – especially conditions that are chronic and progressive, like axial spondyloarthritis (AxSpA).

AxSpA can be thought of a collection of inflammatory arthritis conditions primarily affecting the spine and sacroiliac (SI) joints. AxSpA is a spectrum which includes non-radiographic AxSpA (nr-AxSpA), in which joint damage cannot be seen on x-rays, as well as radiographic AxSpA (r-AxSpA)/ankylosing spondylitis (AS), where the damage to joints and/or any spinal fusing can be seen on x-rays.1 All of the information can be tricky to navigate, and understanding what you might be able to expect can provide some relief.

Cure for AxSpA

The first thing that people want to know when they’re diagnosed with a disease or condition is whether there is a cure.

While AxSpA conditions are presently not curable, there are treatment options. The treatment goals for AxSpA include symptom relief, slowing down joint damage, reducing inflammation, and preserving range of motion.2,3 Such goals may change as the disease progresses, but those are general overall goals of AxSpA treatment.

Treatments can vary, depending on your symptoms and the severity of disease, but can include many different medications such as: non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), corticosteroids, disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs), or biologic treatments.3Physical therapy and exercise may also be used.

What works for one person may not work for another, so remember to try not to compare treatments. Your treatment may change over time as some medications may progressively become more effective or as your symptoms and condition change.

Prognosis of AxSpA

Prognosis of AxSpA can vary, since everyone’s disease course can be different. AxSpA consists of a spectrum of conditions, with varying symptoms and prognoses.

The standard of measuring disease progression is done by x-rays.4 This is very limited as it shows damage and changes that have already occurred. Biomarkers are being studied in the hopes that certain biomarkers like CRP (c-reactive protein), which has been associated with disease progression, can give providers a better idea of predicting long-term changes in those living with AxSpA.4

More research is needed on biomarkers and prognosis, which may help with treatment choices and give those living with AxSpA a better idea of how their condition may progress.

Life expectancy with AxSpA

People living with AxSpA often have other chronic conditions or diseases; these are called comorbidities. One study found that half of all those with AxSpA were living with at least one other chronic condition.5 Such conditions include inflammatory bowel disease, psoriasis, and heart disease. These comorbidities may impact life expectancy in people with AxSpA.

The inflammation found in AxSpA can also affect other parts of the body. The inflammation related to AxSpA can also lead to an increased risk of heart disease. People with AxSpA have a 44 percent increased risk of heart attack and a 40 percent increased risk of stroke.6 They also had a 35 percent increased risk of death.6 Regular checkups, monitoring, and healthy lifestyle behaviors can all help promote wellness, reduce your chances of developing serious cardiovascular disease, and promote overall increased quality of life.

The experience of AxSpA can vary depending on where along the AxSpA spectrum your condition falls. Talking with your doctor about your diagnosis, any tests that you’ve had, and your specific symptoms can help give you a better idea of what to expect in the future and how the condition may affect your life. Although there is no cure, your doctor can go over treatment options with you, as well as potential comorbid diseases and ways to keep yourself as healthy as possible.

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