What is axial spondyloarthritis? Spotting the signs

What is axial spondyloarthritis? Spotting the signs

Axial SpA. Know the signs

Axial spondyloarthritis mainly affects the spine. However, it can also affect joints away from the spine.  

It’s a condition that’s as common as multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease combined and is believed to affect around 200,000 people in the UK, that’s 1 in 200 of us. 

Axial spondyloarthritis is characterised by inflammatory back pain. So what exactly is inflammatory back pain? 

Inflammatory back pain typically causes stiffness in the morning that lasts over half an hour. The back pain is better with activity and worse with rest. It can wake people in the night, particularly in the second half of the night. Inflammatory back pain can also cause pain in the buttocks, something that is sometimes mistaken for sciatica. 

Some axial spondyloarthritis symptoms may seem unrelated to the back pain: including those that have an impact on your eyes, skin or bowels 

A condition called uveitis which affects your eyes, can also be associated with axial spondyloarthritis. As can psoriasis of the skin, or even problems with your gut – particularly inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease).  

People who have, or have had, conditions such as uveitis, psoriasis or inflammatory bowel disease and get inflammatory back pain, may have axial spondyloarthritis. So if you have persistent back pain, or any of these eye, skin or gut conditions, it is important that you speak to your GP, who can determine if you should be referred to rheumatology with suspected axial spondyloarthritis. 

Want to know more about axial spondyloarthritis and how it’s diagnosed? Then check out our other blogs from a wide range of experts. 

Do you think you have axial SpA? Use our online symptom checker to see if you should speak to your GP about the condition. 



Symptoms starting slowly

Pain in the lower back

Improves with movement

Night time waking

Early onset (under 40)