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Risk of Dementia Higher for Ankylosing Spondylitis Patients

Patients with Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS) have a significantly higher prevalence of dementia according to the findings of new research.


Ankylosing Spondylitis is a long-term condition in which the spine and other areas of the body become inflamed. It is not known exactly what causes AS. In many cases, there appears to be a connection with a gene known as HLA-B27, which nine out of ten sufferers have.

The symptoms of AS can vary significantly, but usually involve back pain and stiffness, joint soreness and swelling, and extreme fatigue.

There are many complications of Ankylosing Spondylitis and the outlook for patients varies greatly. With modern treatments, AS does not normally impact on life expectancy, however, the condition is associated with an increased risk of other potentially life-threatening problems, such as spinal fractures and cardiovascular disease.

Now, a new nationwide study involving more than 85,000 people has found a link between the chronic disease and the risk of developing dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.

Several studies have previously made the link between AS and psychological problems, such as depression, anxiety and sleep disturbances, but this is the first time a connection to dementia has been made.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia, followed by vascular dementia, which is the result of damaged vessels reducing blood supply to the brain.

For the study, researchers in South Korea evaluated data from 14,193 patients diagnosed with Ankylosing Spondylitis and 70,965 people of the same age and sex without AS. All the participants’ demographic and clinical data was factored in.

The prevalence of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease was found to be ‘significantly higher’ in those suffering with Ankylosing Spondylitis. Vascular dementia did not considerably differ between the two groups, despite AS patients having a higher incidence of cardiovascular problems.

Four observed links were made between AS and dementia by the researchers:

  1. Chronic uncontrolled inflammation. This, said the researchers, is not only responsible for Ankylosing Spondylitis pain but also psychiatric disorders, including dementia.
  2. AS symptoms, such as depression and anxiety, are associated with chronic pain and functional impairment. This psychological status alone, said the report, could be a direct cause of Alzheimer’s disease.  
  3. Increased levels of amyloid-beta protein in the blood are a hallmark of both AS and Alzheimer’s disease.
  4. The long-term persistent decline of physical activity in those with AS can impact on cognitive ability and lead to a lack of social and workplace interaction. Both these factors often lead to chronic psychological distress, which could result in dementia in old age the study stated.


In conducting the survey, the team also looked at different risk factors, including age and gender, for dementia among AS patients. They found that those over the age of 65 and males are associated with an increased risk for developing dementia.

The report said: “AS patients have a significantly higher prevalence of overall dementia and Alzheimer’s dementia than the general population.”

On a more positive note, it concluded: “Comprehensive patient assessment using our subgroup analysis could help to prevent dementia in patients suffering from AS.”

If you suffer with Ankylosing Spondylitis, you may be eligible for compensation if your condition is the result of an accident or injury that was not your fault.

At Brian Barr Solicitors, we act on behalf of clients with Ankylosing Spondylitis throughout England and Wales. You can find out more by reading some of our successful case studies.

If you would like to speak with one of our solicitors about starting a compensation claim, then call us on 0161 737 9248 or fill in our online contact form.

We do not endorse any research, studies or sources mentioned within our blogs and comments. Furthermore, we do not endorse any medical advice provided, and would strongly recommend anyone seeking medical advice to contact their local healthcare provider.

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