[Age at disease onset and delayed diagnosis of spondyloarthropathies]

Z Rheumatol. 1999 Feb;58(1):21-30. doi: 10.1007/s003930050149.
[Article in German]


A questionnaire with 78 questions concerning the situation of ankylosing spondylitis (AS) sufferers in Germany was distributed to a representative 3000 out of the more than 14,000 patient members of the German AS society; 1614 patients (54%) responded. The age distribution of these patients roughly agrees with that expected due to the distribution of the age at diagnosis and the age distribution of the German population. The group of patients more than 65 years old is, however, under-represented. It turned out that at least 28% of the patients responding do not suffer from idiopathic AS but from other spondyloarthritides (spondylitic psoriasis, spondyloarthritis combined with Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis). The distribution of the age at disease onset agrees well with that published in 1984 by van der Linden et al.: For 4% of the patients, the age at appearance of the first spondylitic symptoms was less than 15 years, for 90% it was 15-40 years and for the remaining 6% more than 40 years. The average age at disease onset was 25.6 years. The spondyloarthritides do not differ significantly in the distribution of the age at the first spondylitic symptoms. The distribution of the age at diagnosis did not differ significantly between male and female patients, in contrast to the findings by van der Linden et al. in 1984. The average age at diagnosis was 34.3 and 35.3 years for male and female patients, respectively. The resulting mean diagnosis delay for male and female patients was 8.4 and 9.8 years, respectively. Whereas the average diagnosis delay was still 15 years for patients with disease onset in the 1950s, it was only 71/2 years for patients with disease onset in 1975-79. It is not yet possible to predict if an average diagnosis delay less than 71/2 years results for patients with a disease onset later than 1980, because the number of further diagnoses to be expected for patients with disease onset in these years is not negligible. Twenty-six percent of the patients (22% of the males, 34% of the females) have relatives, likewise, suffering from AS. Whereas patients with familiar AS experience their first spondylitic symptoms, in the average, 11/2 years earlier than patients without relatives suffering from AS, the difference is 5 years for patients suffering from spondyloarthritis combined with ulcerative colitis. Reports written for patients on other results of the survey can be found in the newsletter "Bechterew-Brief" of the Deutsche Vereinigung Morbus Bechterew.

Publication types

  • English Abstract

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age of Onset*
  • Female
  • Germany
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Spondylitis, Ankylosing / diagnosis*
  • Spondylitis, Ankylosing / epidemiology*
  • Spondylitis, Ankylosing / pathology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires*