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Common types of arthritis in children

Arthritis is a disease affecting the joints causing swelling, stiffness and pain in the joint. Arthritis may affect one or more joints in the body. Though it is common among elderly people, children may also be affected. So it’s better to know something about common types of arthritis in children. In this article you can read all the types of arthritis affecting children and their treatment options.

Acute arthritis presents with pain, swelling , heat, redness and restricted movements of the joint. Sometimes child may be severely ill. Because some types of arthritis cause severe pain. Child may have joint deformities if not treated properly. However most of the childhood arthritis types can be treated completely. But early treatment is necessary.

Here are examples of some common types of arthritis in children.

  • Reactive arthritis.
  • Septic arthritis.
  • Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (JIA)
  • Psoriatic arthritis
  • Systemic disease associated types – rheumatic fever, Henoch-Schonlein purpura

Apart from above causes there are many other rare causes of arthritis also.

Let’s discuss about those common causes of arthritis in children.

Reactive arthritis

Reactive arthritis is the most common type of arthritis in children. It occurs after an infection. Bacteria or viruses affecting your child may also affect joint after several days. If your child complains joint swellings and pain after a respiratory tract infection this is a possibility. So it’s better to get medical attention early. It affects commonly ankles and knees.

It’s common after a viral fever, gastroenteritis or respiratory tract infection. There is low grade fever also. But the baby’s blood tests may be normal. And X-rays also may be normal.

There is no specific treatment for reactive arthritis. However NSAIDs like Ibuprofen shows good results. But it get recovered completely.

Septic arthritis

Septic arthritis is also common among children. It  is a serious infection of the joint space. There may be destruction of joint and bone if not treated properly.

It is common in children less than 2 years of age. But any child in any age group can be affected. A bacteria enters into your child’s one of a joint space via blood. It is the commonest cause of septic arthritis. This bacteria can destruct the joint. And also following a punctured wound or infected skin lesion. Staphylococcus aureus and Hemophillus influenza are the commonest. But may also occur following some viral infections.

Child may have erythematous, warm and very painful joint. Also it’s difficult to move the joint. Child has high fever and become very ill. Infants often hold the limb still and cry if it’s moved.  Because it’s very painful.

Doctors may do some blood investigations. And also they aspirate fluid from joint space also. Ultrasound scan of the joint is also essential to diagnosis. But X-rays are initially normal. So other tests are better than X-ray.

After diagnosis, your child is given prolong course of antibiotics. Washing out of the joint or surgical drainage also may be required. However, early treatment can save your child’s cartilages and bones without destruction.

Juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA)

JIA is a chronic disease of joints. That means it has a longer duration of action. Studies suggest that it is the commonest chronic inflammatory joint disease in children in the UK. Approximately 1 in 1000 children in the UK have JIA.

Juvenile idiopathic arthritis is a huge disorder. It has at least 7 sub types. Each of the sub types has different symptoms. This classification is based on the number of joints affected in kids.

Most common symptoms of JIA are gelling, morning joint stiffness and pain. Child may also develop limp. Actually it’s an intermittent limp.

Investigations are same as other types of arthritis.

There are some complications associated with Juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA).

  • Anterior uveitis is a complication affecting eyes. It is common. But usually there is no symptoms in early disease. But later child may have blindness due to cataract and glaucoma.
  • Growth failure is another complication. Child has loss of appetite and long term illness may lead to this. Also long term steroid treatment can cause growth failure.
  • Flexion contractures of the joints due to joint destruction. But it is preventable with early diagnosis and treatment.
  • Anemia is the other problem. It’s because of the chronic illness.
  • Child may develop osteoporosis also. It has many causes. Diet, reduced wight bearing, steroid treatments and delayed puberty are the common causes.
  • Amyloidosis is a rare complication. There is deposition of proteins in the body tissues. Child may develop kidney failure later.

There are several treatment options for JIA. Your doctor will decide the best treatment option.

NSAIDs, Joint injections, Methotrexate and biologicals are some of treatment options.

Most children can get good control of the disease. But 1 in 3 children will need ongoing treatments into adult life also.

Henoch-Schonlein purpura (HSP)

It is a type of vasculitis. Vasculitis are diseases affecting blood vessels. HSP can affect most of the organs in the body. Child may have a rash over the lower legs and buttocks. Also arthritis, abdominal pain, red colour urine and proteinuria.

Rheumatic fever

This is also very common in children. Usually it develops after a throat or skin infection. Child may have fever and arthritis. It also affects the heart. Valves in the heart get damaged and cause rheumatic heart disease. Therefore long term treatments are needed.

So, those are the common types of arthritis in children. Finally, most of the types of arthritis can be treated effectively. But should be identified and treated early.

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