Current classification criteria for ankylosing spondylitis do not allow diagnosis before radiographic changes are visible in sacroiliacal joints. The the new axial spondyloarthropathy (SpA) criteria include axial SpA without radiographic changes as well as established ankylosing spondylitis, recognizing them as a continuum of the same disease. This is of major importance as the burden of early SpA is comparable to that of later stage disease. Diagnosis relies on inflammatory MRI findings which is the most significant change compared to earlier criteria. Emerging data on the efficacy of tumor necrosis factor (TNF) alpha blocking therapies already in early but also in established disease have given new promising alternatives for treatment of this often very cumbersome disease, that rarely responds to classic DMARDs.