People think of arthritis as a problem for older folks—and it surely is. But about 300,000 children in the U.S. have painful, swollen, and stiff joints caused by juvenile arthritis (JA). Fortunately, up to half of kids under age 6 bounce back from milder forms of the disease with customized drug therapy to reduce swelling and relieve pain. “Having juvenile arthritis in fewer than five joints is a good indicator that youngsters will outgrow the disease,” explains Michael Blakley, M.D., who specializes in rheumatology at Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis.
Having more than five inflamed joints, or a history of the skin disease psoriasis (also an autoimmune disease in which the immune system mistakenly attacks normal cells), predicts more lasting problems. Even then, steroids and new immune-suppressing medicines called biologics can stop inflammation and help protect kids with JA from bone, muscle, and eye complications that were once commonplace, Dr. Blakley says.
JA affects mobility and energy levels and includes any form of arthritis or an arthritis-related condition that is detected in children or teens under age 18. To learn more about JA, browse arthritis.org.