Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Why is my child limping?

You’re wor­ried about your child. They’ve been wak­ing up com­plain­ing their knee hurts, or you notice their fin­gers seem swollen, but they can’t remem­ber hurt­ing them­selves. Maybe they’ve been limp­ing a lit­tle in the morn­ing, or they seem to have a mild flu with a  pink­ish rash that comes and goes. What could be happening?

All of these are symp­toms of Juve­nile Arthri­tis, which effects more than 250,000 chil­dren under the age of 18 in the US alone. If your child has swollen, ten­der joints that last for more than six weeks, he/she could be among their num­ber. Com­monly, the knees, hands and feet will be the most effected, though some­times chil­dren with JA can also have inflamed eyes.
Diag­no­sis comes at the end of exten­sive test­ing per­formed by a juve­nile rheuma­tol­o­gist, who will exclude other con­di­tions through imag­ing, lab work and phys­i­cals before diag­nos­ing your child with arthri­tis. Most forms of arthri­tis are known as autoim­mune dis­or­ders, where the body’s own immune sys­tem attacks its own healthy tis­sues, caus­ing swelling, sore­ness and stiff­ness in joints and the sur­round­ing mus­cles and sup­port­ing tendons/ligaments. The result­ing inflam­ma­tion can dam­age the joints.
Some­times the dam­age done to joints can effect a child’s growth, caus­ing one leg or arm to grow longer than the other, or even slow­ing the child’s over­all growth.
Unfor­tu­nately, there is no cure for Juve­nile Arthri­tis. It’s con­sid­ered a chronic con­di­tion that will require care and treat­ment with exer­cise, phys­i­cal ther­apy and pos­si­bly med­ica­tion. Since every child is dif­fer­ent, there is no one right treat­ment plan for every­one. Your child’s doc­tors will work with you to come up with an indi­vid­ual plan that works for your child. Some chil­dren will have one or two flare-ups of arthri­tis and never suf­fer again, while oth­ers may have to deal with it on a day-to-day basis.
Some doc­tors may pre­scribe med­ica­tion right away, while oth­ers will advise treat­ment dur­ing flare-ups like swim­ming, which allows the child to exer­cise and move their joints with­out putting pres­sure on them. It’s impor­tant to sup­port your child not only with their phys­i­cal but also their men­tal needs to sup­port them through JA.
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There are a lot of great resources avail­able to learn more about Juve­nile Arthri­tis online. We rec­om­mend the fol­low­ing sites for more detailed info:
Photo credit: danieljohn­sonjr / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

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