Arthritis isn’t just for the aging population; it’s also affecting the young ones.

Nearly 300,000 children are diagnosed with some form of arthritis. This includes juvenile idiopathic arthritis, juvenile lupus, Kawasaki disease, and fibromyalgia. To help raise awareness, July is designated as Juvenile Arthritis (JA) Awareness Month.

What is childhood arthritis?
When kids are diagnosed with arthritis (or inflammation of the joints), the term used is childhood or juvenile arthritis. The most common form of juvenile arthritis is juvenile rheumatoid arthritis.

Also known as juvenile idiopathic arthritis, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis is a joint disease affecting children under the age of 16. It causes persistent joint pain, stiffness, and swelling in one or more joints. Some children may only experience the symptoms for a few months, while others can have it for years.

What causes it?
The exact cause of childhood arthritis is still unknown, although experts believe it has something to do with the child’s immune system. When the child’s immune system is not working right, there can be inflammation in the joints and other parts of the body.

What are the signs and symptoms?
Kids with juvenile idiopathic arthritis may experience similar signs and symptoms of older adults with rheumatoid arthritis. This includes:

• Joint pain especially first thing in the morning or after a nap
• Joint swelling (most noticeable in larger joints such as the knee)
• Joint stiffness (your child may appear clumsier than the usual)

In some cases, these symptoms can also be accompanied by fever, swollen lymph nodes, and rash on the trunk.

Is there a treatment for juvenile arthritis?
There is still no cure for juvenile arthritis, but there are ways your doctor can help your child maintain a normal level of physical and social activities. The treatment plan can vary from child to child and depends largely on the type of arthritis one has.

For juvenile idiopathic arthritis, for example, it may be a combination of medications and physical therapy. In severe cases, injections or even surgery may be needed to improve joint function.

Are you suspecting your child has arthritis? Seeing an expert can help prevent potential complications. South Florida Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine can assess your child and recommend the most appropriate treatment. For appointment requests, you may call us at (772) 288-2400. If you need care immediately, the Ortho Injury Walk-in Clinic at Tradition treats new and acute orthopaedic injuries without the need for a scheduled appointment. For more information about our Walk-in Clinic, call (772) 261-OUCH (6824).