In ankylosing spondylitis, inflammation focuses on the spine. Early symptoms include pain and discomfort in the lower back, which may include the hips. The symptoms are made worse by sleep and during periods of inactivity.
The spine is not the only part of the body that may be affected. Inflammation can spread to the pelvis, the ligaments and tendons of the heel, cartilage that supports the ribs, and the shoulder joints. In rare cases, inflammation can affect the eyes.
Pain that improves with exercise and worsens with rest is often the earliest noticeable sign of the disorder. This requires prompt medical attention. Emergency care should be sought if vision symptoms develop – including pain and redness in the eyes, blurry vision, or light sensitivity.
The body attempts to heal the damage caused by ankylosing spondylitis in time. Paradoxically, this can lead to permanent problems as new bone fuses vertebrae. New bone growth can also stiffen the rib cage and limit lung capacity. In rare cases, heart problems are possible.