Patient Articles

Spondyloarthropathy (SpA)

What Are Spondyloarthropathy?

Spondyloarthropathy (SpA) is a group of diseases that involve inflammation. Inflammation is usually found in bones of the spinal column and in the hip joints. Sometimes, it is also found in the joints and tendons of hands and feet. Spondyloarthropathy includes:

  • Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) (inflammation of the hip joints and spine)(See Rheumatology Information article on AS)
  • Enteropathic arthritis (joint inflammation in Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis)
  • Psoriatic arthritis (joint inflammation in psoriasis.)

People with SpA may have a combination of some or all these diseases. Rheumatologists often use the term SpA when treating a patient who has some of the symptoms of AS or PsA, but not all of the symptoms of those disorders.

What Causes Spondyloarthropathy?

The causes of SpA are not known. But it probably is an autoimmune disease. In autoimmune diseases, the body’s immune system cannot recognize your own body. Therefore, it attacks parts of your body, as if they were harmful invaders.

More men than women have SpA, usually before age 40. People with a gene called HLA-B27 may have a greater risk of SpA. But having this gene does not mean that you will get SpA, or give it to your children.

What Are the Symptoms?

Stiffness and pain in the lower back and buttocks are the most common first symptoms. This is usually worse when getting up in the morning. You may also have swollen fingers or toes and arthritis in hip, knee, and shoulder joints. Some people also have problems with their eyes, digestion, or skin. Heel pain or pain in the Achilles tendon, or severe recurrent bursitis or tendonitis in just one joint may be symptoms of SpA.

How Is It Diagnosed?

There is no one test for SpA. Instead, your doctor uses information about your prior and current health. You may also need to get an X-ray and a blood test. Sometimes, you may need a test to check for the HLA-B27 gene.

What Is the Treatment?

Your doctor may prescribe one of four different medications to help you get better. These include etanercept (Enbrel®), infliximab (Remicade®), adalimumab (Humira®), or golimumab (Simponi®).

Spondyloarthropathy Resources

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