Arthritis is generally a condition associated with older patient populations, so it may surprise you to learn that kids often suffer from arthritis as well. When it occurs before age 16, it is referred to juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA). July is Juvenile Arthritis Awareness Month – a month dedicated to raising awareness and knowledge of this condition.
We asked Joseph Skender, M.D., Beaumont rheumatologist, to answer a few questions about juvenile arthritis:
How common is juvenile arthritis?
Nearly 300,000 children in America have been diagnosed with juvenile arthritis. (curearthritis.org)
Since young children are often unable to communicate their symptoms or pain, what are some clues to watch out for?
Clues to watch out for include a change in the child’s behavior, limping (which can be mild), joint pain and swelling (especially when awakening in the morning), decreased activity level and reluctance to use an arm or leg.
If my child is showing symptoms, who do I see?
It is imperative that the child be evaluated by a pediatric rheumatologist, a physician who is trained to diagnose and treat arthritis in children. Many health problems can have associated joint complaints, and they need to be ruled out. Active arthritis in a child can lead to permanent joint and tissue damage and abnormal growth patterns.
Furthermore, children can have inflammatory eye disease associated with arthritis with no symptoms suggestive of a problem, and permanent visual loss can occur if not periodically evaluated by an ophthalmologist.
What are the treatment options for juvenile arthritis?
While there is no cure for juvenile arthritis, over the past 10 – 15 years, there has been a significant increase in treatment options available to help relieve inflammation, control pain and improve quality of life.
For more information, please visit The Arthritis Foundation.