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Juvenile Arthritis Growing In The U.S.

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(credit: CBS) Natalie Nyhus
Natalie Nyhus joined the WCCO-TV team in January of 2011. She repor...
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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Imagine as a child, not being able to run or play without being in pain. That’s what many youngsters who suffer from juvenile arthritis face every day.

Anyone can be stricken with arthritis, but for children it’s especially tough. Advocacy groups say nearly 300,000 children in the U.S. suffer from some form of arthritis, and that number is growing. But they are many ways to treat and cope with juvenile arthritis.

The term juvenile arthritis is used to describe a number of autoimmune and inflammatory conditions that develop in young children and teens up to age 16.

Although the conditions cause inflammation mainly in the joints, young people with arthritis can also suffer from gastrointestinal tract problems, skin issues, even inflammation of the eyes.

“Ongoing eye inflammation can lead to cataracts, glaucoma, visual loss and even blindness,” said Dr. Sheila Angeles-Han, pediatric rheumatologist at Emory University.

The most common form of the condition is juvenile idiopathic arthritis. The symptoms include muscle and soft tissue tightening, bone erosion, joint misalignment and changes in growth patterns. Early diagnosis is critical.

“The most important thing is to prevent progression of the arthritis so that you don’t have damage down the line,” said Angeles-Han.

Treatments include anti-inflammatory drugs, pain relievers and medications to suppress the immune system to control the arthritis. Being active is also key.

Because cases of juvenile arthritis are not the same, the best thing for a child with arthritis is to be treated by a specialist, such as a pediatric rheumatologist, who knows how to pinpoint the problem.

Diagnosing arthritis often requires a detailed medical history of current and past symptoms, physical examination, X-rays, and blood work.

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