Background Classic ankylosing spondylitis (AS) with radiographic sacroiliitis has long been considered to be more common in men than women. But this difference has gradually decreased with increasing recognition of this condition in women so that the more recent data suggest a range of 2:1 to 1.2:1 ratio in favor of men .
Objectives To document greater disease recognition in women during the last 30 years in Switzerland as reflected by AS patient membership in the Swiss Ankylosing Spondylitis Society (SVMB) since its foundation in 1978 .
Methods We reviewed the Society's quarterly newsletters that have kept record since 1980 not only of the number of members, but also the percentage of males and females AS patients. We calculated yearly AS patient membership and also change in the male/female patient ratio (M:F).
Results There has been a progressive decline in the M:F ratios since 1980 as shown in the Figure. There were 44 female forming 28% of the patient population, with a M:F ratio of 2.57 in 1980. At the end of 2016, there are 1731 females forming 49% of the total number of patients, and the M:F ratio is now 1.03.
Conclusions AS is now being recognized as often in females as in males, as reflected in the membership of SVMB over the last 36 years. There can be various reasons for this observation, one of them being the availability of better imaging tools to recognize AS/axial spondyloarthritis (axSpA), especially among women whose disease is clinically and radiologically less pronounced and is therefore often overlooked . For example, the use of MRI (for early detection of spinal inflammation) and the ASAS criteria have resulted in >50% females in a German cohort of patients with nonradiographic axSpA . SVMB has played a major role in achieving greater disease recognition in Switzerland by increasing disease awareness and educating patients and their families, the general public, the governing bodies and the allied health professionals about AS, and by interacting closely with rheumatologists. Other possible factors influencing our data include: women outliving men, forming a little greater percentage of the general population, and possibly more likely to join patient self-help groups and societies, We did not investigate any gender difference in disease severity and clinical presentation. In conclusion, AS/axSpA almost equally afflicts men and women in Switzerland.
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Disclosure of Interest None declared