Typically associated with the old and frail, arthritis can affect youngsters as well. So the next time you hear those creaking joints, don’t ignore them
It’s one of those ailments that you wouldn’t commonly associate with the young. It supposedly strikes the ageing and can often leave them in severe pain. But what if we told you that arthritis can affect the young as well? Hard to believe? But there are several incidents of youngsters being affected by arthritis — be it juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, gout arthritis or arthritis that has been induced due to an injury to the cartilage between the joints.
Contrary to popular belief, rheumatoid arthritis is frequently seen in youngsters below the age of 16. This sort of arthritis is usually called Idiopathic arthritis and is quite different from how it is normally seen in adults. “Arthritis can occur in children between the ages of 2 and 10. The reasons however, are not always clear. It could affect children with absolutely no family history of arthritis. In some cases, juvenile arthritis could set in after a particularly stressful event in a child’s life,” says Dr N Somasekhar Reddy, consultant orthopaedic surgeon at Apollo Hospital.
“In certain cases, the onset of arthritis can be secondary to an accident. This could be termed as post traumatic arthritis. For instance, when an individual sustains an injury it could rupture the cartilage that is present in the joint. If this is left untreated, it could lead to further wear and tear and progress to arthritis. Considering obesity is on the rise these days, several youngsters may find that their joints wear and tear much more easily, another leading cause of arthritis,” says Dr K Raghuveer Reddy, shoulder and knee surgeon at Sai Institute of Sports Injury and Arthroscopy.
Children with juvenile arthritis may experience swelling and pain may in hips, neck and jaw. Symptoms like nodules on their elbows, a rash, a fever, swollen glands, tiredness and weight loss. “There are several sub types of arthritis. While in some, the patient’s condition improves by the time he/she reaches teens, in others there may not be any improvement and could become more severe. In extreme cases, it could lead to the patient becoming crippled,” says Dr Somasekhar.
“Strict physiotherapy and medication early on is the only way to help reduce the severity of arthritis. This helps postpone joint deformities. Also it has been noticed that children with arthritis might have a stunted growth. In case of an injury to the joint it is essential to treat it aggressively to prevent arthritis,” explains Dr Somasekhar.
“Treatments like marrow stimulation, where we puncture the marrow so it heals itself and cartilage transplant also work in helping treat arthritis. For big defects we can also recommend cartilage cell culture, where we grow new cartilage in a culture dish and then transplant it into the affected areas,” says Dr Raghuveer.