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.
There are a lot of great resources available to learn more about Juvenile Arthritis online. We recommend the following sites for more detailed info: