Juvenile arthritis (JA) is an umbrella term used to describe rheumatic diseases in children. It affects close to 300,000 children under age 16 in the United States. In children with JA, their immune system attacks healthy tissues, which leads to joint pain and inflammation.
There are several types of juvenile arthritis, with the most common types being idiopathic arthritis, lupus, vasculitis, fibromyalgia, and scleroderma. When you have a child with JA, you need a rheumatology specialist on your child’s health care team to work together with your pediatrician to keep your child healthy.
Board-certified rheumatologist Barbara Kage, MD, is highly trained in diagnosing and managing juvenile arthritis here at the Rheumatology and Allergy Institute of Connecticut, LLC. In this blog, we review five myths and explain the facts about this condition.
Although some kids can go into remission, the majority of juvenile arthritis cases are lasting and require treatment for the rest of your child’s life. The good news is that with the right treatment, JA can be well-controlled. However, flare-ups are always a possibility.
Juvenile arthritis can sometimes go unnoticed, but that doesn't mean it's not a big deal. Kids with arthritis often look fine, but they may experience a tremendous amount of pain. Further, it can turn your child’s life upside down.
Sometimes medications can make your child feel sick, causing headaches, nausea and fatigue. There’s also the potential for serious complications from the condition, such as inflammation of the eye, or uveitis, which can cause blindness.
Arthritis in children can often be mistaken for growing pains or an injury. As a result, some parents may wait it out to see if the problem gets better. Kids with arthritis may have swollen joints, sore wrists or knees, and stiffness. They may even limp because of the swelling or pain.
In addition, juvenile arthritis is a diagnosis of exclusion, meaning that other causes of the symptoms must be ruled out before a diagnosis of arthritis can be made. This process can delay an arthritis diagnosis. Additionally, in order to be diagnosed with chronic juvenile arthritis, a child must have arthritis symptoms for six weeks, yet some forms of arthritis can come and go within a few weeks.
JA can have many different symptoms, not just joint pain. Children with arthritis may have physical limitations due to joint stiffness and swelling. Other symptoms vary depending on type of arthritis but may include fever, rash, fatigue, and swollen lymph nodes, to name a few.
In addition to dealing with the physical symptoms of JA, children can feel sad and anxious about their condition. There’s a lot of uncertainty around it, as a flare-up can get in the way of their daily activities and future plans. They may miss social activities, sports, or have trouble focusing in school.
There’s currently a shortage of pediatric rheumatologists in the US, which puts rheumatologists who treat juvenile arthritis in high demand. Some states have no pediatric rheumatologists.
What’s more, the majority of rheumatologists trained to treat JA are at academic medical centers, which can make it difficult for your child to get the right treatment if you live far from physicians trained to treat the condition.
Your child is in compassionate and capable hands when you choose the Rheumatology and Allergy Institute of Connecticut to participate in your child’s care and management of rheumatic disease. For help with diagnosis or treatment, call or book online to schedule a visit with Dr. Kage.