Generally, when you think of arthritis the first thing that comes to your mind are older persons. Everyone has seen at least one TV commercial with an older person talking about the harsh symptoms caused by arthritis and how the specific medication is very effective.
Despite the fact that most types of arthritis are associated with older adults, there are some types such as juvenile rheumatoid arthritis and childhood arthritis that can have a really negative impact on your child’s life.
There are treatments available for these two types of arthritis. The problem is that there aren’t many rheumatologists that have a specialization in pediatric rheumatology.
According to Dr. Brett Smith, rheumatologist at Blount Memorial, children can be affected by an autoimmune disease from birth to age 18. There is a very small possibility that 2 year old children could develop an autoimmune disease, but the possibility grows from age 2 and older. Autoimmune diseases can appear at any given moment in a child’s life, this is why parents should be cautious and look for any of the symptoms. Children who develop an autoimmune disease experience joint pain, swelling, rashes, fevers, vision changes, weight gain, impaired growth and different leg length.
Smith added that diagnosing a child with one of these diseases isn’t just like treating a little adult. Their bodies have a different reaction than that of an adult. The signs a child has an autoimmune disease are slightly different from an adult. They might want to bear weight on one leg, have fever, nighttime pain, a swollen joint or a positive blood test. These kinds of signs don’t go unnoticed by the parents and the pediatrician will note something is wrong. Additionally to these signs, Smith says that children may experience new rashes, a red or painful eye, fatigue or children falling off the growth chart. There are situation where children have positive blood tests and abnormalities on physical exams, but experience minimal or even no symptoms at all. It is still necessary that the child is seen for treatment despite the minimal symptoms.
Children with these kinds of conditions can be treated with NSAIDs, low-dose steroids or, in case it is necessary, immune-suppressing medications. They all have a low chance of causing any side-effects.
According to Smith, children will experience improvements as soon as the treatment begins. They tend to become more active, be happier, sleep without pain, grow normally and have a normal socialization. At the start of the treatment though, the child will have to make more frequent doctor visits.
Despite this, the moment the child starts improving, the appointments will be spaced out and allowing him to engage in his normal activities. The child will need to visit the clinic just a few times a year, making his life relatively normal.