Arthritis in Children: An Overview of the Cause, Symptoms and Treatment

Arthritis affects more than two million people in the United States. Of these individuals, children afflicted with pediatric arthritis, also known as systemic onset juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, generally suffer from an inflammation of the joints resulting in swelling and stiffness. Rheumatoid arthritis, as a general rule, affects individuals over the age of 40 and is more common in women than in men. While the rheumatoid arthritis impact older populations, the impact on children is significant as well. Understanding the cause, origin and treatment options will provide the optimal treatment outcome for children suffering from this condition.

For pediatric patients, arthritis is generally an auto-immune disease which can affect not only the joints but also various other organs in the body. Chronic in nature, the arthritic symptoms may lie dormant and flare during specific periods of illness or a change in activity levels. Genetically based, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis may impact more than one child in a family. Additionally, the conditon is commonly co-morbid with other pediatric conditions such as lupus, cancer and inflammotory bowel disease.

To properly diagnose juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, the child must be less than 16 years of age and be afflicted with arthritic type symptoms for more than six weeks. Diagnosing the condition involves a series of tests including blood work, xrays and medical history intake. Once positively diagnosed, the pediatric patient’s arthritic condition is then classified as one of three conditons; pauciarticular, polyarticular and systemic. Of these, polyarticular juvenile rheumatoid arthritis is the most prevelant, affecting 30% of all pediatric arthritis cases. Systemic juvenile rheumatoid arthritis is the most severe, attacking organs in addition to the joints.

Treatment options for a child suffering from pediatric arthritis, or juvenile rheumatoid arthoritis, may include over the counter remedies including Tylenol and Advil. Additonally, the pediatrician may prescribe a form of steroid treatment as well as anti-rhuematic drugs. Most physician, in addition to medication, may recommend a course of physical therapy or a routine exercise plan.

Regardless of the treatment option selected, the primary focus of parents is to relieve symptoms while remediating the conditon to the best level possible. While pediatric arthritis is not curable, it can be controlled. Discuss treatment options with your pediatrician and, if your child is exhibiting join and muscle pain for more than six consecutive weeks, seek diagnostic testing into a pediatric arthritic condition.

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