Glossary of conditions

Glossary of conditions

Below is a short overview of some of the conditions that our research covers, including links to further resources and some of our studies.

Axial spondyloarthritis (ankylosing spondylitis)

Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) is a long-term condition in which the spine and other areas of the body become inflamed.

Symptoms of AS can vary, but usually involve:

  • back pain and stiffness
  • pain and swelling in other parts of the body – caused by inflammation of the joints (arthritis) and inflammation where a tendon joins a bone (enthesitis)
  • extreme tiredness (fatigue)

These symptoms tend to develop gradually, usually over several months or years, and may come and go over time. In some people the condition gets better with time, but for others it can get slowly worse.

Our main research on AS has been the registry project the British Society for Rheumatology Biologics Register in Ankylosing Spondylitis (BSRBR-AS), which was subsequently followed up during the COVID-19 lockdown period in the CONTAIN study. The DyNAMISM study also looked at the effect of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs on markers of the condition.

You can read more about AS on the NHS website.


Fibromyalgia, also called fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS), is a long-term condition that causes pain all over the body.

As well as widespread pain, people with fibromyalgia may also have:

  • increased sensitivity to pain
  • extreme tiredness (fatigue)
  • muscle stiffness
  • difficulty sleeping
  • problems with mental processes (known as "fibro-fog"), such as problems with memory and concentration
  • headaches
  • irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a digestive condition that causes stomach pain and bloating

Although there's currently no cure for fibromyalgia, there are treatments to help relieve some of the symptoms and make the condition easier to live with.

Currently our main fibromyalgia research is in the PACFiND study, investigating care pathways for people with the condition, and how these could be improved.

You can read more about fibromyalgia on the NHS website.


Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common type of arthritis in the UK, affecting around 1 in 10 people. It is a non-inflammatory condition, and almost any joint can be affected; most commonly in the knees, hips and small joints of the hands. While the exact cause is not known, several factors can increase the risk of developing osteoarthritis, including previous injury, age, obesity and having other conditions such as an inflammatory arthritic condition or gout.

The main symptoms of osteoarthritis are joint pain and stiffness, and problems moving the joint. Some people also have symptoms such as swelling, tenderness, and/or a grating or crackling sound when moving the affected joints.

The severity of OA symptoms can vary greatly from person to person, and between different affected joints.

The FRESKO study is currently investigating the feasibility of identifying whether we can identify a larger cohort of early-OA patients, with a view to targeting these people with preventative measures to improve their long-term symptoms.

You can read more about OA on the NHS website.

Psoriatic arthritis

Psoriatic arthritis (PsA) is a type of inflammatory arthritis that affects some people with the skin condition psoriasis. It typically causes affected joints to become swollen, stiff and painful.

Like psoriasis, PsA is a long-term condition that can get progressively worse. If it's severe, there's a risk of the joints becoming permanently damaged or deformed, and surgery may be needed. The severity of the condition can vary considerably from person to person. Some people may have severe problems affecting many joints, whereas others may only notice mild symptoms in 1 or 2 joints.

There may be times when symptoms improve (known as remission) and periods when they get worse (known as flare-ups or relapses). These can be very difficult to predict, but can often be managed with medicine when they do occur.

In the group we are running the British Society for Rheumatology Biologics Register in Psoriatic Arthritis (BSR-PsA) which is currently tracking the progress of a cohort of patients with PsA to compare outcomes of those on so-called ‘biologic’ drugs or disease modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) with patients not on those drugs to gain a greater understanding of their effects.

You can read more about PsA on the NHS website.

Rheumatoid arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a long-term inflammatory condition that causes pain, swelling and stiffness in the joints, usually affecting the hands, feet and wrists.

There may be periods where symptoms become worse, known as flare-ups or flares. These can be difficult to predict, but with treatment it's possible to decrease the number of flares and minimise or prevent long-term damage to the joints.

Some people with RA also experience problems in other parts of the body, or more general symptoms such as tiredness and weight loss.

The RHEUMAPS study is currently looking to understand how musculoskeletal conditions including RA might be impacted by living in a rural location as opposed to an urban one. Previously, the LIFT trial investigated how we might be able to intervene to reduce the impact of fatigue in rheumatic diseases such as RA.

You can read more about RA on the NHS website.


Vasculitis is an inflammation of the blood vessels. While inflammation is the immune system's natural response to injury or infection in vasculitis the immune system attacks healthy blood vessels, causing them to become swollen and narrow. This may be triggered by an infection or a medicine, although often the cause is unknown.

Vasculitis can range from a minor problem that just affects the skin, to a more serious illness that causes problems with organs like the heart or kidneys.

The VOICES study is currently investigating the care experience of patients with systemic vasculitis in order to try and ascertain their patterns of healthcare use and outcomes to try and see how the organisation of the former might affect the latter.

You can read more about vasculitis on the NHS website.

If you would like to suggest a condition to add to this list, please email us at