Patients with ankylosing spondylitis are more likely to develop a lung disorder known as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) compared to the rest of the population, according to researchers.
Their study, “The link between COPD and ankylosing spondylitis: A population based study,” was published in the European Journal of Internal Medicine.
Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) is a chronic inflammatory condition that usually affects the joints. But the disease also affects areas outside the joints and can even lead to the development of lung disease.
Recent evidence suggests that there is an underlying autoimmune basis for the development of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. But only a few studies have investigated the link between between ankylosing spondylitis and COPD.
Israeli researchers conducted a population-based cross-sectional study using the largest medical records database in Israel to identify an association between these two disorders. Data collected from the database included age, gender, socio- economic status and smoking status.
Records from 4,076 ankylosing spondylitis patients, along with 20,290 age- and sex-matched individuals (used as controls), were analyzed.
The proportion of patients with COPD was found to be significantly higher (46%) in patients with ankylosing spondylitis than in the control population (11%).
This result was significant even after taking into account age, gender, and smoking status, which are known risk factors for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Using statistical analyses, researchers determined that ankylosing spondylitis patients were 1.2 times more likely to develop COPD than controls.
“Our study supports an association between AS and COPD, further extending the link between COPD and autoimmune diseases,” researchers wrote.
Although there were higher rates of smokers — a significant risk factor for COPD — in the ankylosing spondylitis group than in the control group, AS was demonstrated to be an independent risk factor associated with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
It is still unclear whether smoking is a risk factor for the development of ankylosing spondylitis, but it has been linked to worse outcomes in patients with this disease. Smoking has also been linked to the development of autoimmune diseases.
“This finding highlights the importance of smoking cessation in AS patients and raises the question of whether COPD screening may be warranted,” researchers wrote.