Research is limited, but there may be a connection between asthma and ankylosing spondylitis (AS). Understanding each condition could lead to better symptom management.

AS is a form of inflammatory arthritis that affects several areas of the body, including the lungs.

Asthma is a chronic condition that affects the airways in the lungs. It causes inflammation in the airways that can make them narrower. When this occurs, a person can experience difficulty breathing.

People living with AS may be at a higher risk of developing asthma. In addition, AS can negatively affect the lungs, causing breathing issues.

Health experts do not fully understand the relationship between asthma and AS. There is also little research into potential connections between the two conditions.

The authors of a 2015 study set out to determine whether AS may increase the likelihood of asthma. For this purpose, they utilized a comprehensive Taiwan database.

They found that individuals living with AS have an increased risk of having asthma. They also note that within the study group, people living with AS had a 1.74-fold increase in the risk of asthma, compared with the control group.

According to their findings, the following groups were more likely to develop asthma:

  • females
  • people aged 50–64 years
  • individuals without comorbidities

The authors of a 2016 study associate both asthma and AS with Th2 and Th17 cells, which make up part of the immune system.

They found that people living with AS had a 1.31 greater risk of developing asthma within 10 years of receiving an AS diagnosis.

In addition to potentially leading to the development of asthma, AS can affect a person’s lungs and breathing in general.

AS can cause tightness due to decreased mobility and expansion in the chest. The tightness can make it more difficult to take a deep breath.

In some cases, the inflammation that experts associate with AS can also affect the lungs themselves. The inflammation can cause damage to the lungs, which can lead to pulmonary fibrosis. Pulmonary fibrosis can make breathing more difficult and slowly worsens over time.

Currently, no research into the connection between asthma and developing AS is available. However, some evidence suggests a person living with asthma may have an increased risk of rheumatoid arthritis (RA), another rheumatic condition.

In a 2017 review of studies, the researchers looked at how asthma affects an individual’s likelihood of developing RA. They found that living with asthma increases the risk of rheumatoid disease, possibly due to underlying inflammation in asthma.

Additional research is necessary to fully explore the connection between asthma and rheumatoid conditions, such as RA and AS.

Managing asthma and AS at the same time can be challenging.

In part, this can be due to asthma making it more difficult to breathe during exercise. Exercise is a common recommendation to help find relief from AS symptoms, such as pain and stiffness.

Managing asthma effectively may allow a person to continue exercise as a management technique for AS.

Treatment for asthma often involves a combination of long-term care, and acute care when an attack occurs. Some common asthma treatments include:

  • short-acting inhalers
  • biologics
  • allergy shots
  • inhaled long-acting bronchodilators
  • leukotriene modifiers
  • corticosteroids, either inhaled or oral

Treatment for AS may involve the use of medications, physical therapy, or surgery, in addition to some lifestyle changes. The first-line treatment is nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, which can help with both inflammation and pain.

In more active cases, a doctor may recommend biologics for the management of AS symptoms and to help prevent disease progression and damage. They might also recommend surgery to help restore mobility and joint function.

A person should let a doctor know if they are living with both conditions so that the doctor can help tailor a treatment plan to better address both conditions.

To help with asthma and AS, a person may also wish to consider taking steps such as:

  • noting and recording triggers
  • trying to use stress management techniques
  • reaching or maintaining a moderate body weight
  • engaging in regular exercise
  • getting quality sleep regularly

A diagnosis of either asthma or AS may indicate an increased risk of the other condition developing.

The two conditions may share a connection related to inflammation and the immune system. However, more research is necessary to explore the exact link.

People can make certain lifestyle changes to help improve both their asthma and AS. In addition to taking steps to treat each condition individually, they can also try to exercise regularly, reduce stress, and work with a doctor to manage symptoms.