Here’s What You Need To Know About Juvenile Arthritis
When we think about arthritis, we usually think of it as a condition affecting the elderly. However, more than 300,000 children in the U.S. also suffer from another form of arthritis called Juvenile Arthritis (JA). Living with arthritis is not easy, no matter what age you are, but for kids managing their condition it can be even more challenging. To be a child who wants to play, spend time with family, or even participate in other normal kid activities, having juvenile arthritis can be a real fly in the ointment.
Luckily, it doesn’t have to be that way. That’s why the Arthritis Foundation is promoting Juvenile Arthritis Awareness Month, to both celebrate the kids who are #strongerthanJA, to raise awareness of the condition, and to educate people about treatment options. Here at Pain and Spine Specialists, we want to do our part to promote and educate people about this event and the condition.
Identifying The Condition
This can be quite a challenge, given that joint pain can be caused by a variety of health issues. According to the Mayo Clinic, there isn’t a single test that can identify juvenile arthritis, but there are a variety of tests that can rule out other conditions. Typically, these include a series of blood tests, x-rays, and MRIs.
Just as there is for adults, there are a variety of medical treatments that can be used for children. These can include over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen or naproxen sodium, but these can have long-term effects on a child’s stomach and liver. That said, these are often the front-line medications given because they often come in children’s dosages (i.e. children’s Motrin), and can still be effective at low levels.
If the child’s pain is stronger, or NSAIDs aren’t sufficient, a doctor may recommend disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs), which are often taken alongside NSAIDs. This type of treatment are used to slow the progress of juvenile arthritis, ideally working to prevent the condition from worsening. Side effects of this drug class often include nausea and liver problems.
On the furthest end of the treatment scale is corticosteroids, such as prednisone. These can be used in moderation to reduce inflammation and pain, while other medical treatments take effect. The challenge in using corticosteroids is that they can stunt a child’s growth and increase their susceptibility to infection.
Many parents with children dealing with JA are reasonably concerned about medical treatments and they seek out more natural remedies. Luckily, there are a wider range of options here, all of which can contribute to a healthy—and happy—child.
These can include adjusting the child’s diet to include anti-inflammatory foods. That means avoiding sugar to reduce inflammation (probably the hardest thing for kids), but also includes incorporating more vegetables, fruit, and whole grains. Avoid processed foods—both sweet and savory—for best results.
Ensuring your child gets enough activity throughout the day is also an effective, non-medical treatment. Of course, children may seek to avoid physical activity as a means of avoiding pain, but activities like swimming can be very effective for keeping the child active without stressing their joints. It can also build muscles and increase flexibility, which will help the child cope with their condition in the long run.
Lastly, when an inflammation flares up, applying both cold and heat to the area in pain can have soothing effects. This might include a cold compress, but if the child doesn’t react to cold, a warm bath, shower, or even a hot compress will go a long way to relieve symptoms.
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Please call Pain and Spine Specialists in Maryland at 301.703.8767, or 724-603-3560 in Pennsylvania to schedule a consultation or use the contact form on our website to send us a message.