What is Pediatric Arthritis?

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  • Written By: wiseGEEK Writer
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 05 October 2018
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Pediatric arthritis can be challenging to fully explain because it is not a single disease. Rather, it is one of many illnesses that occurs in children that could result in arthritic symptoms. The main features of arthritis are that joints and connective tissues are affected and they could be swollen and hard to move, causing great discomfort. Depending on underlying rheumatic condition or arthritic type, a number of joints or just a few might exhibit these symptoms, and the various forms of pediatric arthritis or rheumatic illnesses could have many more symptoms unrelated to the joints.

It is more correct to say that pediatric arthritis illnesses are a subset of the larger group of rheumatic conditions. Rheumatic conditions may affect more than the joints, and could create damage in muscles, bones, connective tissues, and organs. Doctors tend to group arthritis with rheumatic illnesses, though arthritis may sometimes be less severe in scope.

Some of the forms of pediatric arthritis that may be mostly limited to the joints include juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, infectious or septic arthritis, and juvenile ankylosing spondylitis. Each has different symptoms. For instance, septic arthritis typically refers to stiffness in a joint resulting from bacterial infection, and frequently only one joint is affected. When diagnosed, this illness is often of short duration, responding well to antibiotic treatment; degree of damage to the joint could also require physical therapy or other measures.


When people hear of rheumatoid arthritis (RA), they think of the debilitating illness that can affect adults. In pediatric forms of this condition, which is a disorder of the autoimmune system, many children respond well to treatment and may not have the condition as adults. This doesn’t make pediatric arthritis of this kind easy to bear. It can be painful, be present in many joints, and require complex treatment strategies. RA also comes in three types and the rarer type, systemic RA, may be hardest to treat and cure.

Juvenile ankylosing spondylitis tends to be located in the spine and the joints that connect to it. This is a challenging illness to treat, requiring a number of medications and interventions to maintain spine and joint function. In pediatric cases, the disease is, like RA, occasionally less severe than the adult form, though this isn’t always the case.

There are many additional illnesses that will cause some form of pediatric arthritis. Among these is psoriatic arthritis, which can be present as a result of, or during psoriasis outbreaks. This condition most affects the toe and finger joints.

Other rheumatic illnesses create arthritic symptoms. The autoimmune disorder Lupus, for example, may cause one or more joints to be swollen and painful. Rheumatic fever may cause septic arthritis in a single joint or result in inflammation in many of them. There are a number of other examples.

Perhaps it’s best to consider pediatric arthritis in light of its most common symptoms: joint pain, joint swelling, changes in range of motion, and heat or discomfort at joints. These symptoms occurring frequently suggest the possibility of an arthritic condition. Should they persist, parents may want to proceed to doctors to get diagnosis, since some forms of pediatric arthritis may be very serious.



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