We usually do not associate arthritis with children and teenagers. The USA’s Centres for Disease Control and Prevention tears down this myth though, citing the statistics of three lakh children and young adults to have been diagnosed with arthritis.
It is likely there are thousands of unreported cases - of those who have not been to a doctor - and therefore, are not recognised in the statistics. Children and even teens might not be able to recognise and communicate their symptoms, which may lead to a delayed diagnosis. Parents, meanwhile, may attribute their children’s arthritis to ‘growing pains’ or even be guilty of dismissing them altogether.
Arthritis means inflammation of the lining of a joint which causes it to swell leading to pain and stiffness. The lining of the bone joint also known as 'synovium' protects the joint from impact caused by running, jumping etc. and also helps the joint to move easily. The inflammation causes the joint to swell and may also lead to damage to the surface of a joint (the cartilage) and the bone itself. The most common joints affected are-hands, wrists, elbows, feet, ankles and knees
CAUSE/ RISK FACTOR
Generally, the cause cannot be pinpointed but there are certain risk factors such as-
• Autoimmune disease
• Family History
• smoking .
• Faulty Life style- not eating balanced diet, sedentary life and stress are major contributing factors.
• Early symptoms appear like an attack of cold or flu. Patient complain of feeling tired, look pale and low on energy levels.
• Symptoms built up gradually but sometimes the onset is sudden.
• Joint can be single or multiple.
• Pain, swelling and soreness in the joint.
• Warmth and redness over the skin of the involved joint.
• Restriction of movement of the involved joint. Early morning stiffness is seen., which improves after exercise and get worse after rest.
• The early symptoms interfered with everyday tasks like opening a milk bottle, holding a saucepan or walking to school.
• weight-loss, rashes, unexplained low grade fever and small, tender bumps just under the skin of elbow can also be present.
In addition to joint pain and tenderness, you may experience the following symptoms: chest pain, difficulty breathing, painfully dry eyes or mouth, feelings of tingling or numbness, painless, red lumps on your knees, toes, or elbows and anemia etc.
• Family history of arthritis, autoimmune disease.
• Physical exam of the joint.
• X-ray of the affected joint.
• Ultrasound- of the affected joint.
• Blood test. – To see Anemia, calcium, creatinine, uric acid level, levels of certain antibodies etc.
There isn’t a cure for arthritis. Treatment emphasizes pain management, often through the use of over-the-counter or prescription medications.
• Non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
• Disease-modifying anti rheumatic drugs and biologic's, which may prevent RA from progressing.
• Surgery in later age.
LIFE STYLE CHANGES
Certain lifestyle changes may help reduce symptoms.
Obesity produces arthritis: Extra kilos are bad on the joints - they not just increase the burden on them, but also have a destructive metabolic effect. A chemical related to obesity upsets the balance between the build-up and breakdown of cartilage, the tough elastic tissue that is mostly converted to bone in adults. This means that in obese children, the natural degradation of cartilage is faster than the renewal process that is supposed to restore it. This loss, over time, develops into osteoarthritis, the chronic breakdown of cartilage in the joints. So make plans to lose weight – or at least to stop gaining! Heavy exercise can damage the joints: Switch to lighter exercises, like low-impact biking, swimming, and even weightlifting, as long as it's not stressful. Walking is good, but ensure that you have comfortable walking shoes, don’t walk too fast, and choose relatively flat surfaces to walk – not steep inclines. Climbing of stairs should be restricted to two floors only.
Watch your biomechanics: How you lift and carry various objects, or perform physical tasks, including playing sports, can make a big difference to the health of your joints. The back is the most obvious part of the body that can be strained, but nearly all joints can be damaged by poor biomechanics. For instance, something as simple as gardening can put stress on joints, if you dig at the dirt with your fingers instead of using a proper tool. Proper mechanics while playing sports will do far more than improve your athletic performance. It also minimises strain on joints from head to toe that can manifest later as osteoarthritis.
Prevent and treat injuries: Too many ankle sprains, or insufficient treatment following sprains, can put your ankles on the long grind to arthritis. The problem is, once you alter the mechanics of your ankles to compensate for the sprain, you can begin a process where the mechanics of other joints are also altered - through your knees up to your hips, etc. Remember, it’s all the same highway! So, take care of your injuries well, whether to the ankles, knees, or elsewhere.
THE TAKE HOME MESSAGE IS LOUD AND CLEAR: AGE IS NOT A FACTOR FOR ARTHRITIS; IT CAN AFFECT THE YOUNG AND OLD ALIKE.