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news News Tuesday, December 26, 2017 Friday, December 22, 2017 6:52 PM - Friday, December 22, 2017 6:52 PM

Care for patients with juvenile idiopathic arthritis

Rheumatology clinic offers specialized services

Care for patients with juvenile idiopathic arthritis

Originating almost 50 years ago, a specialized rheumatology clinic at Shriners Hospitals for Children — Twin Cities is available for children with conditions affecting their joints or soft tissues, such as autoimmune diseases and connective tissue disorders. The autoimmune disease juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA), occurring in infants and children ages 16 and younger, is the condition most commonly seen at the clinic. 

“Despite JIA being as common as epilepsy or diabetes in children, it is still a highly specialized field,” said Pediatric Rheumatologist Thomas G. Mason, II, M.D., who has led the clinic for 25 years. “There are less than 400 pediatric rheumatologist in North America.” He says this can make it difficult to connect children’s symptoms to JIA for a correct diagnosis.

Types and symptoms

JIA symptoms vary based on its type and level of severity. The three more common types are:

  • Oligoarthritis: Typically affecting four or fewer joints, it is usually found in larger ones, such as knees, ankles, wrists or elbows
  • Polyarthritis: Typically affecting five or more joints, it is often found in weight-bearing joints, such as knees, neck, jaw, ankles and feet
  • Systemic arthritis: Often accompanied by a fever and rash, this is often a more severe form of JIA because many parts of the body are affected, not just the joints

Dr. Mason says signs to look out for include joint inflammation, fatigue and noticeably reduced energy levels. “Many children who have arthritis don’t talk about being in pain. Watch for limping, stiffness or not being able to do an activity,” he said. “Sometimes a child will also have a fever or rash that tends to be worse at the end of the day.” 

As with other forms of arthritis, symptoms of JIA can worsen (a flare-up) or disappear (remission). Every child experiences JIA differently. Some children might have only one or two flare-ups, while others may experience many flare-ups or have permanent symptoms.

Diagnosis and treatment

Children can be diagnosed with arthritis from a very early age. A pediatrician asks questions about the child’s medical history, performs a physical exam, and orders laboratory and imaging tests. An early diagnosis of JIA and aggressive treatment are key to preventing or slowing joint damage and preserving joint function and mobility. 

Shriners Hospitals for Children — Twin Cities offers patients an individualized approach to multidisciplinary care that includes on-site physical and occupational therapy, care management, and pediatric orthotic and prosthetic services. Surgery is also available for very severe cases. “Because JIA almost always involves the immune system attacking the joints, it’s often a challenge to find the right treatment plan. But, thanks to a history of treatment  and research, we are fortunate to have a lot more treatment options than we did 10 or 15 years ago,” Dr. Mason said. The goal is to restore function and enable each child to reach his or her full potential. 

How may we help you?

In addition to juvenile idiopathic arthritis, the rheumatology clinic at Shriners Hospitals for Children — Twin Cities also evaluates and treats patients with:

  • Dermatomyositis
  • Lupus
  • Lyme disease
  • Mixed connective tissue disease
  • Periodic fever syndrome
  • Scleroderma
  • Sjogren’s Syndrome
  • Spondyloarthropathy
  • Vasculitis

To schedule an appointment, call 612-596-6105.

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