There is a common misconception that arthritis occurs only in older adults and the elderly; however, according to the Arthritis Foundation, of the more than 50 million Americans with the disease, two-thirds are under the age of 65, including 300,000 children.
There are many types of arthritis in children and young adults. Some can be transient and cured after treatment but most can be chronic requiring maintenance therapy.
Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (formerly classified as JRA) can occur in children as young as 1 to 16 years of age. Children and young adults may develop septic arthritis, which is characterized by acute joint swelling and pain from infection by virus, bacteria or rarely fungus. Lupus arthritis, spondyloarthropathy and rheumatoid arthritis are examples of arthritis that may turn into lifelong conditions. The most common type of arthritis in the general population is osteoarthritis, which is rare among children and young adults.
Once diagnosed with arthritis, a regimen of medication, diet and exercise i recommended to prevent the progression of the disease. Medications prescribed by a physician will help to combat inflammation; proper exercise and diet will benefit overall well being.
It is important to engage in the right kind of exercises that will be beneficial and not worsen joint problems. Active young adults and children can help prevent degenerative arthritis with proper stretching, and a balanced range of motion during exercise. This will help to prevent injuries in the joints, tendons and ligaments. Proper footwear is also very important in terms of preventing degenerative arthritis. Maintaining a healthy diet also promotes overall well being, which helps in arthritis management.
If you believe that you or your children may suffer from arthritis, a follow-up with your primary care provider is helpful to start evaluation and management.
Dr. Lucia Hardi is with KentuckyOne Rheumatology Associates.