Axial spondyloarthritis (axSpA) is a chronic inflammatory disease predominantly affecting the axial skeleton (sacroiliac joints and spine). Nonradiographic axSpA (axSpA without radiographic sacroiliitis) and ankylosing spondylitis (AS; radiographic form of axSpA) are considered nowadays as two consecutive stages of one disease. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are highly effective against the major symptoms of axSpA (pain and stiffness) and may have disease-modifying properties including retarding progression of structural damage in the spine. Therefore, NSAIDs, unless contraindicated, are the treatment of choice for the majority of patients with axSpA. Beyond NSAIDs, only tumour necrosis factor (TNF) α blockers are effective and approved for the treatment of active axSpA. Several novel drugs (i.e. monoclonal antibodies targeting interleukin-17, interleukin-12/23, inhibitors of phosphodiesterase-4 and kinases), which might be effective in axSpA, are currently under investigation. Pharmacological therapy of axSpA should always be combined with nonpharmacological treatment including education and regular exercise/physiotherapy.
Keywords: ankylosing spondylitis; axial spondyloarthritis; nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs; treatment; tumour necrosis factor α blocker.