Even kids can get arthritis
You might think of arthritis as a condition that only affects older people, but kids can get arthritis, too. Called juvenile arthritis, it can cause the same joint stiffness, swelling and pain that adults with arthritis experience. The most common type of juvenile arthritis is juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, also called juvenile idiopathic arthritis.
Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease, which means that the body’s immune system attacks normal, healthy tissue the same way it would attack germs like a virus or bacteria. This can cause symptoms like:
- Stiffness in the joints
- Clumsiness from stiff joints
- Joint pain
- Joint swelling
In some cases, juvenile arthritis can also cause swollen lymph nodes, a rash or fever. Talk to your child’s doctor if he or she has had joint pain or stiffness lasting longer than a week, especially if he or she also has a fever or other symptoms.
Diagnosing juvenile rheumatoid arthritis
Your child’s doctor will ask you about his or her symptoms and will do a physical exam that includes checking the joints that are bothering your child. Your child may also need tests, such as:
- Imaging tests like an X-ray, MRI or bone scan
- Blood tests
- Bone marrow tests
Your child may also be referred to an orthopedic specialist who may take a sample of the fluid in the joints to check for any problems.
Kids with arthritis can still be kids
Long term, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis can cause problems with the eyes or with your child’s growth. Getting an early, accurate diagnosis and regular check-ups with an experienced care team can lower the risk for these complications.
Even with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, your child can still live an active and healthy life. Common treatments for juvenile rheumatoid arthritis include:
- Medicines to control symptoms, such as NSAIDs or DMARDs
- Physical therapy
- Steroid injections
You and your child will work with a team of doctors and physical therapists to come up with an individualized treatment plan. Talk to your child’s doctor if you have any questions or concerns about whether certain exercises or activities are safe for your child.