Kids get arthritis too

by BabyYumYum
sad child
Reading Time: 2 minutes

Arthritis in children is known as juvenile arthritis or JIA – Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis. BYY brings you the facts about this painful condition.

Arthritis in children affects 1 in 1 000 children in South Africa. Many of them are in constant pain and facing disability because diagnosis is complex, and many SA children take long to get diagnosed or remain undiagnosed. JIA is an autoimmune disease which means immunity against self: the immune system attacks the body as if it were a virus or other harmful organism. The cause is unknown but they are likely due to a combination of genetic factors, environmental exposures, and the child’s  unique lifestyle and immune system. It is treatable and when well-managed, children with JIA can generally lead lives like their peers.

Early symptoms, although unique to each child, may include the following for a period longer than six weeks:

  • Swollen joint/s, with or without pain
  • Unexplained on and off fevers and rashes
  • Fatigue and body aches
  • The child is less active than they normally are
  • They are always tired even when they sleep a lot
  • They play differently than they usually do, for example, they sit a lot and play sitting down all the time
  • They walk or run differently or have developed a limp
  • They have unexplained fevers or rashes, not linked to a cold or virus
  • They have swollen or painful joints

Having these symptoms does not mean that your child definitely has JIA. Don’t panic and if you need to Google, stick to credible websites! If your child has these kinds of symptoms for longer than six weeks visit your GP or paediatrician to rule out other causes. If not, they need to see a specialised paediatrician called a paediatric rheumatologist to do the correct clinical and relevant blood tests to get a conclusive diagnosis. Fortunately, in South Africa, we have an excellent array of these doctors.

Treatment for JIA

The good news is that outcomes for treated and well-managed children are excellent. If your child is diagnosed with JIA or Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis, the sooner you follow your paediatric rheumatologist’s treatment plan, the better.

The medications used to help children with juvenile idiopathic arthritis are chosen to decrease pain, improve function and minimize potential joint damage.

Therapies

Your doctor may recommend that your child work with a physical therapist to help keep joints flexible and maintain range of motion and muscle tone. A physical therapist or an occupational therapist may make additional recommendations regarding the best exercise and protective equipment for your child.

A physical or occupational therapist may also recommend that your child make use of joint supports or splints to help protect joints and keep them in a good functional position.

Surgery

In very severe cases, surgery may be needed to improve joint function.

kids, where the soft brushstrokes of vulnerability and perseverance illuminate the courageous spirit of young hearts.

Diet & lifestyle

As in any auto-immune illness, looking after your child’s diet and stress levels in essential. Autoimmunity has been linked to gut health and digestion so it is worth exploring if your child has food sensitivities such as gluten or dairy intolerance. Other food allergies and intolerances may cause systemic inflammation which may aggravate the condition. 

Is JIA curable?

No. And if anybody says that they DO have the cure, it is wishful thinking. However, JIA children generally do well when they’re diagnosed quickly and treated appropriately.

Arthritis Kids South Africa is non-profit company and public benefit organisation that raises awareness that #KidsGetArthritisToo.

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