Do Children Get Arthritis?

Understanding Childhood Rheumatic Diseases

My name is Dr. Angela Migowa. In my line of work as a Pediatric Rheumatologist, I am often asked, “Do children get arthritis?” This question arises whenever I describe my profession, which involves caring for children with arthritis. Many people are surprised to learn that arthritis affects children because it is commonly perceived as a disease for the elderly.

Globally, it is estimated that about three million children are living with chronic arthritis – known as Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (JIA).

What is Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (JIA)?

Our body has natural defense called the immune system. Its primary role is to protect us from external threats, such as germs, and internal threats, like abnormal cells that can lead to cancer. The immune system responds to these threats through a process called inflammation, which manifests as:

  • Pain
  • Redness
  • Heat
  • Swelling

However, there are instances when the immune system becomes uncontrollable and attacks the body. This leads to autoimmune diseases such as Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (JIA), where the affected joint becomes:

  • Painful
  • Red
  • Hot
  • Swollen

This reaction can also occur in the joint if there are other threats, such as infections or cancer. Therefore, it is crucial to assess children promptly and early by a pediatric rheumatologist to determine the primary reason for the inflammation in the joint.

Symptoms and Early Diagnosis of Arthritis in Kids

Early diagnosis of arthritis in children is crucial for effective management. Symptoms of childhood arthritis include:

  • Joint pain
  • Swelling
  • Stiffness
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Eye inflammation

Recognizing these signs early and seeking medical advice can prevent severe complications and improve the quality of life for children with pediatric arthritis.

The Role of Pediatric Rheumatologists in Managing Childhood Arthritis

Pediatric rheumatologists are specialized doctors who diagnose and treat childhood rheumatic diseases. They play a vital role in managing juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) and other forms of pediatric arthritis. These healthcare professionals provide comprehensive care, which includes:

  • Medication
  • Physical therapy
  • Lifestyle adjustments

Genetics and Environmental Factors in Pediatric Arthritis

All processes in our body are determined by genes, which we inherit from our biological parents. You can think of genes as the fixed keys on a piano. However, our environment influences how these genes express themselves, much like a pianist creates melodies by pressing the keys in various sequences.

Thus, arthritis in children is a result of an interplay between their genetic makeup and environmental factors.

At Hope Arthritis Foundation, we are dedicated to improving the quality of care for children with arthritis through training programs for parents and healthcare professionals. Our mission is to ensure that every child with rheumatic disease thrives.

To learn more join our upcoming healthcare professionals’ pediatric arthritis boot camp to learn how to identify and manage the top four conditions in pediatric rheumatology:

  • Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (JIA)
  • Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE)
  • Juvenile Dermatomyositis (JDM)
  • Vasculitis

By investing in the education and training of healthcare workers, we aim to make a lasting impact on the lives of countless children and their families. Become a part of this vital mission today.

For more information, register here.