When most people think of arthritis, they picture adults with aching joints. But children can suffer from arthritis as well. Juvenile arthritis impacts approximately one in 1,000 children. Baylor College of Medicine’s Dr. Tiphanie Vogel explains what juvenile arthritis is and the impact it can have on children who suffer from it.
“Arthritis can be confusing because there are so many types. Juvenile idiopathic arthritis is an autoimmune condition in the body. When a child has juvenile arthritis, their body’s defenses against infection have become confused and attack the joints, which can lead to inflammation, pain, or disability because of swelling and stiffness,” said Vogel, assistant professor of pediatrics in the section of immunology, allergy and rheumatology.
To be diagnosed with juvenile arthritis, a child has to have the onset of symptoms before age 16. However, depending on the subtype of juvenile arthritis, a diagnosis can be made when a child is an infant.
Unlike adult arthritis, which is almost universally painful, juvenile arthritis patients may not experience as much pain, which can be confusing to some healthcare providers. The most prominent signs of juvenile arthritis include:
- Swollen joints
- Joint stiffness
- Joints are red and warm to touch
- Inability to form hand into a complete fist
Some subtypes of juvenile arthritis go into remission with treatment and never recur. Jaw pain and uveitis, or inflammation in the eye, can also be associated with juvenile arthritis.
“A juvenile arthritis diagnosis is based on the history from the patient and their parents and the pediatric rheumatologist’s physical exam. Blood work can be helpful, but there is no one test that answers whether or not you have juvenile arthritis,” Vogel said.
Before medications were available, juvenile arthritis was a crippling and disabling disease. Since the invention of targeted treatments using biologic medications, the success rate in treating juvenile arthritis has been high. Medication options range from over the counter, like ibuprofen, to medications that require an infusion.
Some children also require physical therapy if they have a joint that has been severely impacted by inflammation or joint disabilities. To schedule an appointment with a Baylor pediatric rheumatologist, call 832-824-1319.
-By Julia Bernstein