Classification criteria for most of the disorders belonging to the spondylarthropathy group already exist. However, the spectrum of spondylarthropathy is wider than the sum of these disorders suggests. Seronegative oligoarthritis, dactylitis or polyarthritis of the lower extremities, heel pain due to enthesitis, and other undifferentiated cases of spondylarthropathy have been ignored in epidemiologic studies because of the inadequacy of existing criteria. In order to define classification criteria that also encompass patients with undifferentiated spondylarthropathy, we studied 403 patients with all forms of spondylarthropathy and 674 control patients with other rheumatic diseases. The diagnoses were based on the local clinical expert's opinion. The 403 patients included 168 with ankylosing spondylitis, 68 with psoriatic arthritis, 41 with reactive arthritis, 17 with inflammatory bowel disease and arthritis, and 109 with unclassified spondylarthropathy. Based on statistical analysis and clinical reasoning, we propose the following classification criteria for spondylarthropathy: inflammatory spinal pain or synovitis (asymmetric or predominantly in the lower limbs), together with at least 1 of the following: positive family history, psoriasis, inflammatory bowel disease, urethritis, or acute diarrhea, alternating buttock pain, enthesopathy, or sacroiliitis as determined from radiography of the pelvic region. These criteria resulted in a sensitivity of 87% and a specificity of 87%. The proposed classification criteria are easy to apply in clinical practice and performed well in all 7 participating centers. However, we regard them as preliminary until they have been further evaluated in other settings.