Most people don’t think of arthritis as a children’s disease, but approximately 300,000 American children have arthritis. Arthritis in children is called juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, but should not be confused with adult onset rheumatoid arthritis because symptoms differ. Children with arthritis generally have a favorable prognosis.
Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis Symptoms
Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis usually affects joints such as the knees, wrists, ankles, and elbows, causing inflammation and pain. In some cases, children may suffer from an inflammatory eye disease. Children with the rare systemic version of juvenile arthritis may also suffer from inflammation of the heart, lymph nodes, spleen, and other organs. Despite the concern for organ inflammation, the prognosis is still considered favorable for systemic juvenile arthritis and about 75 percent of children can be treated with no long term effects.
Challenges in Identifying Juvenile Arthritis
The main challenge in identifying juvenile arthritis is that children do not know what’s wrong. They may not understand how to articulate the feelings of pain and stiffness. Children with arthritis may have trouble throwing a ball, climbing stairs, and even walking, so parents should be alert for these signs. Teachers, day care workers, and other professionals that work with children should also be aware of these signs.
Life with Juvenile Arthritis
After diagnosis of arthritis, children often want to deny and fight through the illness. They may overdo playtime or fight about taking medications. Parents should approach the situation with empathy. Children with arthritis will live with chronic pain for their entire lives, so it may be difficult to come to terms with for someone so young. Counseling and physical therapy may help with coping.