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Study identifies key quality of life factors for ankylosing spondylitis

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New research highlights the most prevalent modifiable factors associated with a poor quality of life in people with ankylosing spondylitis (AS).

Around 200,000 people in the UK live with AS, a painful and progressive form of arthritis which causes inflammation in the spine and other joints.

Researchers at the University of Aberdeen analysed data from 959 patients in the Scotland Registry for Ankylosing Spondylitis, which collects clinical and patient-reported data on AS from across Scotland.

They identified five factors that were independent predictors of a poor quality of life among patients: moderate to severe fatigue, poor physical function, chronic widespread pain, high disease activity and poor spinal mobility.

Physical function is monitored using a tool called the Bath Ankylosing Spondylitis Functional Index (BASFI), while the Bath Ankylosing Spondylitis Disease Activity Index (BASDAI) is used to measure disease activity, and the Bath Ankylosing Spondylitis Metrology Index (BASMI) is used to assess spinal mobility. This leaves two factors — chronic widespread pain and fatigue — that do not receive the same attention, said Arthritis Research UK, reporting on the study.

The nonspecific nature of these symptoms may explain why they are not typically monitored in ankylosing spondylitis to the same degree. However, given the important role they play in patients’ quality of life, it could be beneficial for these trends to be monitored more closely.

The researchers concluded: “These findings provide evidence that in addition to traditional clinical targets (BASDAI, BASFI and BASMI), focus on nonspecific symptoms (chronic widespread pain and fatigue) — perhaps with nonpharmacological therapies — may yield important improvements in quality of life.”

The findings of the study have been published in the Journal of Rheumatology.