Arthritis is the inflammation of one or more joints. Unfortunately, there are many misconceptions that persist around arthritis, with the biggest one being that it’s an elderly person’s disease. This is not true at all! Arthritis does not discriminate. With over 100 different types of arthritis, anyone can be affected, even children.

Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (JRA) is the most common form of childhood arthritis1, but children may also be affected by juvenile chronic arthritis (JCA), and juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA).

Many children continue to go undiagnosed due to the misconception that they do not suffer from this disabling disease. As a parent, childcare provider, or educator, it’s important to know the signs in order to seek further help and testing. The most common sign is joint swelling or pain for at least six weeks.

Blood tests can help identify the rheumatoid factor and rule out other conditions. X-rays are important in determining if it’s arthritis, as they can show cartilage damage and deterioration. It’s important to also keep in mind that it might take a series of tests or weeks of close monitoring  to properly diagnose a child with arthritis.

Case-by-case treatment will vary but many pediatricians recommend the following treatments for their young patients:

  • Medications such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), corticosteroids, and biologic agents2
  • Physical therapy and moderate exercise2
  • Alternative medicine such as acupuncture2

Arthritis is rarely a life threatening disease but it remains one of the leading causes of disability. With proper monitoring and treatment a child can lead a long and active life.

Jennifer Villa Kearins

References:

1: http://www.cdc.gov/arthritis/basics/general.htm

2: http://www.webmd.com/rheumatoid-arthritis/understanding-juvenile-rheumatoid-arthritis-treatment