Arthritis can affect people of any age and not just elderly, including children. The disease that causes inflammation in joints can interrupt the daily activities of kids diagnosed by it and they may face difficulties in walking, dressing and playing. The types of arthritis that affects children less than sixteen years of age is referred to as childhood arthritis or juvenile arthritis. (Also read: Midfoot arthritis: Warning signs, causes and all you want to know)
Your child may or may not complain of joint pain but if you spot swelling in knee or stiffness in other joints right after the kid wakes up in the morning or after a nap and he/she visibly limps, it could be a sign of arthritis.
“Symptoms may vary in children over course of time. Common signs and symptoms are joint pain, swelling, stiffness of joints, fever, body rash. These symptoms may be severe enough to affect your daily living activities like walking, dressing, and playing. Sometimes it can also involve other body organs like eyes, skin, muscles, and bowel,” says Dr Lokesh Mahajan, HOD and Sr Consultant Pediatrics, Marengo QRG Hospital Faridabad.
Causes of childhood arthritis
Childhood Arthritis can be caused by both infection and non-infectious reasons.
“JIA (Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis) is an autoimmune disease. In JIA, our body immune system creates inflammation in our own joints leading to joint swelling and inflammation. A combination of genetic and environment triggers are suspected to play a role in it,” says Dr Mahajan.
Another type of arthritis that is seen in developing countries like India is Bacterial Septic Arthritis.
“T.B. is also known to involve joints and cause arthritis in our country,” adds the expert.
Can childhood arthritis be treated?
Dr Mahajan says treatment depends on the underlying cause of arthritis.
“In JIA, various types of medications are available for treatment. Some control disease activity (like corticosteroids & DMARDs) and some are used to relieve symptoms (like NSAIDs),” says the expert.
“Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) may be recommended by a doctor when NSAIDs alone fail to mitigate joint pain and swelling or if there is a great risk of damage in the future. To slow the progress of juvenile idiopathic arthritis, DMARDs may be advised in combination with NSAIDs,” he adds.
Other treatment option may be physical therapy that can help keep joints flexible and maintain range of motion and muscle tone. In very severe cases, surgery may be required to improve joint function.