The Arthritis Foundation dedicated the month of July to educating patients about Juvenile Arthritis. Yes, just like your grandparents, children as young as 16 years old or even younger can be impacted by arthritis. In fact, 300,000 children are currently suffering from Juvenile Arthritis. One study found that 90% of children, with Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis, will have problems within the joints of the feet.
To begin, the term arthritis means inflammation of the joints. This inflammation will cause the joints to appear swollen and be painful or stiff. Unfortunately, though, arthritis does not only impact joints, it also can affect the eyes, skin, and gastrointestinal system. The most common type of Juvenile Arthritis is Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis; idiopathic means that the cause is unknown; however, research is starting to find that Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis may be hereditary.
How can a doctor differentiate between normal “growing pains” and arthritis?
Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis will be diagnosed mainly based on the child’s symptoms and medical history along with the findings on physical exam. One of the most defining symptoms of Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis is having one or more joints that has been continuously swollen for 6 weeks or longer. In addition, the physician will require blood work in order to rule out infection or autoimmune diseases.
X-rays will also be ordered, so that the joint spaces and bones can be examined. A child with Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis will have x-rays that may show narrowing of the joints, destructive changes to the bones, or mal-position of bones due to joint damage. The x-rays will also be used to rule out any bony defects such as a bone tumor or fracture.
Unfortunately, just as with adult arthritis, there is no cure for Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis. This disease truly will affect the entire family, as the child will not be able to run and play, as a child without arthritis is able to. Do not ignore your child’s aches and pains as there are medications available to help slow the progression and symptoms of Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis. Some of these medications your doctor will be able to prescribe for relief are:
• Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Medications
• Analgesics/pain medication
• Disease Modifying Anti-Rheumatic Drugs
• Biologic Response Modifiers
As with any medication though these are not without their side effects, so it will be important for your child to take their medications regularly and eat balanced meals to maintain a healthy weight. If your child’s feet are affected by Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis, the Boulder County Foot and Ankle or Platte Valley Foot and Ankle Clinic will be able to evaluate your child’s condition and attempt to provide further relief by casting your child for custom orthotics and recommending the best shoe type for your child.
The Arthritis Foundation’s goals are to find better more effective treatments for those suffering from Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis, in addition, they team up with families to help encourage the child and provide more information about the disease as well as treatments. For more information and more resources recommended by the Arthritis Foundation, visit http://www.arthritis.org.
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