Arthritis developing in children below 16 years of age is called Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (JIA). The word arthritis means joint inflammation; “arth” means joint and “itis” mean inflammation. The aetiology of childhood arthritis is unknown but a dysfunctional immune system starts attacking healthy joints and tissues causing symptoms. Occasionally an infection can trigger for the onset of arthritis. Untreated arthritis in children can lead to joint contractures, damage the cartilage and bones and cause altered bone growth leading to growth retardation. Therefore, early diagnosis and treatment can prevent joint damage.
There are different types of childhood arthritis-like polyarticular JIA, oligoarticular JIA, systemic-onset JIA, Juvenile spondyloarthritis and others. About one in every 1000 children may develop some form of arthritis during any age but it is rare in the first six months of life. Children can present with a variety of symptoms such as fevers, rash, red eyes, joint pain and swelling. Children may not be able to express their feelings or joint symptoms in words. They can hence present with restriction of their activities and mobility or may limp or may stop walking or stop using the affected limb.
Arthritis in children is treatable. You should consult a Rheumatologist if your child complains of pain in his joints and is restricting his or her activities. Your Rheumatologist will ask your child and yourself questions regarding your child’s joint pains, examine your child and may order investigations including blood tests and x-rays to arrive at a diagnosis. Your Rheumatologist will discuss the best treatment options available and expected outcomes for your child’s arthritis. Management of different childhood arthritis is different. Learning strategies to cope with pain, balancing your child’s activities and rest periods and eating a healthy balanced diet isF also essential.
Children with arthritis should attend school and can live a normal life. They should participate in extra-curricular and family activities to lead a full and active life. Do not ignore your child’s symptoms of joint pains if they persist for more than a month and are affecting their activities.
Dr Manish Dugar MD, FRACP (Australia)
Childhood arthritis or Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (JIA) information sheet