Advocacy groups say nearly 300,000 children in the U.S. suffer from some form of arthritis, and that number is growing.
Imagine as a child not being able to run or play without being in pain. That's what many youngsters who suffer from juvenile arthritis face every day.
The term juvenile arthritis is used to describe a number of autoimmune and inflammatory conditions that develop in young children and teens up to age 16.
Although the conditions cause inflammation mainly in the joints, young people with arthritis can also suffer from gastrointestinal tract problems, skin issues; even inflammation of the eyes.
“Ongoing eye inflammation can lead to cataracts, glaucoma, visual loss and even blindness,” explains Dr. Sheila Angeles-Han of Emory University.
The most common form of the condition is juvenile idiopathic arthritis. The symptoms include muscle and soft tissue tightening, bone erosion, joint misalignment and changes in growth patterns. And early diagnosis is critical.
“The most important thing is to prevent progression of the arthritis so that you don't have damage down the line,” says Dr. Angeles-Han.
Treatments include anti-inflammatory drugs, pain relievers and medications to suppress the immune system to control the arthritis.
Being active is also important because cases of juvenile arthritis are not the same. The best thing for a child with arthritis is to be treated by a specialist, such as a pediatric rheumatologist, who knows how to pinpoint the problem.