Risk of Inheriting Ankylosing Spondylitis

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Both male and female patients who are planning a family will ask, "What is the risk of my child inheriting spondylitis?" There is a 50% chance that the child of one HLA-B27 positive parent will inherit the gene, but a smaller chance of actually developing spondylitis. This ranges from about 5% to 20%. The severity of spondylitis is also influenced by genes, but these have yet to be identified. Although genes play an important role in spondylitis, most people do not consider the risks to be high enough to deter them from having children, particularly since treatments have improved.
Healthy spine versus one with ankylosing spondylitisAnkylosing spondylitis (AS) is a form of inflammatory arthritis that affects the spine. The children of spondylitis patients who are HLA-B27 positive have a slightly greater risk of developing the disease, particularly if other family members have been affected. The risk is lower and less predictable for families where HLA-B27 is not present. Parents requiring more specific information should seek professional genetic counseling.

It is not necessary to check your child for HLA-B27, since it is only one factor that contributes to the overall risk of developing spondylitis. It may unduly and unnecessarily alarm the parents and the patient to obtain this information prematurely.

Parents should be aware, however, of any suspicious symptoms developing in the child and seek proper medical attention from a pediatric rheumatologist. In children, spondylitis usually starts in an ankle, knee or hip, rather than the back. Months or years later, other joints may be affected, including the spine. With treatment, most children with spondylitis are not significantly disabled.

Researchers recently identified two additional genes—ARTS1 and IL23R-—that are also responsible for spondylitis. These genes play a role in the immune system's response to infection. The discovery of these genes could help physicians identify people at high risk of developing spondylitis and may lead to immunizations against the disease.

This article is an excerpt from Straight Talk On Spondylitis, which is published by the Spondylitis Association of America. You can learn more about the SAA and purchase your own copy of Straight Talk by visiting their website, www.spondylitis.org.

For additional reading on spondylitis in children, you can request the Childhood Onset Spondyloarthritis brochure from the Spondylitis Association of America. This free brochure can be ordered online.

You may also want to visit S.W.I.F.T.: Spondylitis Web Info for Teens. It's a site just for teens sponsored by SAA.

Updated on: 12/12/17
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