By Guest Blogger Alysha Taxter, MD, MSCE, Pediatric Rheumatologist, Wake Forest Baptist Health Brenner Children’s Hospital
Joint pain is not uncommon in children, but occasionally there can be more to it than just growing pains. One of the most common conditions I see at Brenner Children’s Hospital Rheumatology is Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (JIA), the condition that used to be known as Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis. JIA shows up at a rate of one to four cases per 1,000 children. It’s also an umbrella term for up to seven different sub-types of juvenile arthritis.
Here are some of the basics about JIA:
It’s important to note that not every joint pain indicates arthritis in kids. Anything from growing pains to hypermobility syndrome can cause painful joints in children. Plus, some children with arthritis may not have a lot of pain. If you suspect your child may have JIA, look for any of the following symptoms that last six continuous weeks or longer:
~ Joint swelling
~ Morning stiffness
~ Joint pain
~ Inability to completely bend or straighten joints
Some children may also run a fever, have a rash or have a joint that’s warm to the touch. JIA can involve one or many joints. The most common type of arthritis involves the knees, ankles and wrists, but arthritis can occur in any joint.
The method of treatment for JIA depends on which type of arthritis your child has. We use a variety of different medications, ranging from steroid shots directly into the joint to disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDS). We also use a group of medicines called biologics. In addition to these drugs, which are used to target the condition, we may also use nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), like ibuprofen or naproxen, to treat pain. These over-the-counter drugs are used for supportive care. Some kids may also benefit from physical therapy to help strengthen and stretch muscles. These activities can work well alongside other JIA treatments.
When to See a Doctor
If you suspect your child may have JIA, it’s important to mention your concerns to your child’s pediatrician. He or she may then refer your child to a pediatric rheumatologist. Any symptoms that have been present for six or more consecutive weeks need an in-depth examination. The sooner JIA is diagnosed and your child is on the appropriate medications, the more likely we’re able to prevent permanent joint damage.
Outlook for Kids with JIA
There is no cure for JIA, but my No. 1 goal as a rheumatologist is to control a child’s condition so that he or she can live a normal, active life. Children with JIA should still be able to go to school, play sports such as basketball, lacrosse and track, and take part in high-level activities with their peers. Any precautions are determined on a case-by-case basis.
If you’re concerned your child may have JIA, you make an appointment with Dr. Taxter or her colleague, Dr. Julisa Patel, by calling 336-716-WAKE.
Sponsored by Brenner Children’s Hospital