Our children are the most precious things to us parents, so when we find out that they could be unwell our initial reaction is to get upset or panic. However, as a parent, it is also our duty to do everything we can to ensure our children stay happy. Arthritis is becoming more common in children, with 12,000 diagnosed cases in the UK alone. This guide aims to cover the different types of juvenile arthritis, the signs and symptoms, and how to cope when your child has been diagnosed.
What is juvenile arthritis?
The word arthritis simply means joint inflammation, which can happen in any joint on the human body. The inflamed joints can cause pain, discomfort, swelling and decreased mobility. Juvenile arthritis (JA or JIA) is when a person under the age of 16, experiencing the symptoms set out below, has been diagnosed as having joint inflammation. There are still many questions surrounding the causes of arthritis; with specialists, scientists and doctors all researching possible connections. It is thought that genetics can play a big part in causing this condition, as well as other factors including weight, previous joint abnormalities and even gender.
How to tell if your child may have arthritis
There are several signs and symptoms that a parent should look out for, if they’re worried their child may have arthritis. If you notice a combination of any of the below symptoms then seek medical advice right away:
Limited motion in the joints - Normally caused by swelling, stiffness or tenderness of the joints.
Pain and tenderness in the joints - This could also be a symptom of many other conditions or even a sports injury, so make sure you get any joint pain looked at.
Hardening or shortening of the joint (contracture)- This is normally caused by flexing a painful joint and holding it for long periods of time. This can get worse if not dealt with quickly.
Altered growth of joints or bone - If you notice that your child isn’t growing as fast as other children in their class then it could be that their growth has been altered by arthritis. Those with juvenile arthritis tend to have a shorter stature than others.
Your doctor or GP can put your child forward for tests if they show one or more of these symptoms. Tests generally include an x-ray, scans, blood tests and physical examinations.
Top tips for dealing with arthritis in children
If your child has been diagnosed with arthritis then it’s important not to pass your fear or worry onto them. Although you may be distressed with the news, you need to show a brave face in front of your child. Don’t forget, they may be confused by this new diagnosis, so be there to provide support! Juvenile arthritis is treated in the same way as other types of arthritis and most people with the condition continue to live a happy and healthy life. Your doctor may recommend an exercise regime, a programme such as Apostherapy, medication or a combination of all three. Make sure you talk with your child about the different options and let them discuss their own worries about certain treatments.
It is vital to help your child lead a life that isn’t hindered by their condition, whilst still letting them remain as independent as possible. Make sure you report any symptoms to your doctor immediately, and work together as a family to find the best course of action.