The objective of this study was to determine the prevalence and risk factors of low bone mineral density (BMD) in patients with spondylarthropathies (SpA) at an early stage of disease. In this cross-sectional study, the BMD of lumbar spine and hips was measured in 130 consecutive early SpA patients. The outcome measure BMD was defined as (1) osteoporosis, (2) osteopenia, and (3) normal bone density. Logistic regression analyses were used to investigate relations between the following variables: age, gender, disease duration, diagnosis, HLA-B27, erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR), C-reactive protein (CRP), Bath Ankylosing Spondylitis Disease Activity Index (BASDAI), Bath Ankylosing Spondylitis Functional Index (BASFI), Bath Ankylosing Spondylitis Metrology Index (BASMI), extra-spinal manifestations and medication, with outcome measure low BMD (osteopenia and/or osteoporosis). The SpA population had a median time since diagnosis of 6.6 months and a disease duration of 6.3 years. In total, 9% of the early SpA patients had osteoporosis, 38% osteopenia, and 53% normal BMD. On univariate analyses, male gender, diagnosis of ankylosing spondylitis, increased CRP, high BASFI, and high BASMI were significantly associated with low BMD. Factors showing a relation with low BMD in the multivariate model were male gender (OR 4.18, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.73-10.09), high BASMI (OR 1.54, 95% CI 1.14-2.07), and high BASFI (OR 1.18, 95% CI 1.00-1.39). In early SpA patients, a high frequency (47%) of low BMD in femur as well as in lumbar spine was found. Low BMD was associated with male gender and decreased functional capacity. These findings emphasize the need for more alertness for osteoporosis and osteopenia in spondylarthropathy patients at an early stage of the disease. © 2010 The Author(s).