What is Lupus and How Can This Be Treated Safely?

We seldom associate joint pain and swelling with children. After all, kids are meant to run, jump and play without ceasing. They're agile, filled will energy and enthusiasm and ever on the go. Yet, for some kids, that isn't the reality. It's a mind boggling experience for a parent whose child is playing tag and throwing hoops one week to hear that same child complain about fatigue, joint pain and rashes the next. Often it is nothing more than a flu bug, but in some cases it is something far more serious.

Childhood Lupus

Autoimmune diseases that were, for many years, only associated with adults are showing up in greater numbers in children. Most childhood autoimmune diseases are diagnosed in kids between the ages of 11 and 15, although children can have them at any age before and after these ages. For instance, childhood lupus is reported to affect somewhere between 5,000 and 10,000 American children under the age of 18. It strikes children of any ethnicity or race, affecting them in ways similar to adults. Kids with lupus exhibit signs of fatigue and achiness with the obvious disease related symptoms of the butterfly rash and kidney problems. It is diagnosed effectively through the diagnostic ANA blood test. Treating this incurable disease requires focusing attention on the control of the flare-ups because these flares can cause irreparable harm to the child's organs besides increasing the feelings of fatigue and illness. The use of steroids and immunosuppressives are usually included in a lupus treatment plan. The challenge, of course, is to convince a child that he needs to rest and eat well.

Child Multiple Sclerosis

For many years it was thought the MS (multiple sclerosis) exhibited itself primarily in young adults, usually around the age of 20. Now, through research and clinical programs to investigate MS, between 2% and 5% of all MS patients are diagnosed before their 16th birthday. Genetic factors can influence this autoimmune disease which tends to be tricky to diagnose. Other autoimmune diseases such as lupus and child Lyme disease have to be investigated first. Once the disease is diagnosed, then, like lupus, a lifetime of treatment moves into place. The difference with MS is that due to the eventual attack on the brain and spinal cord, the disease is degenerative in most cases. It presents with fatigue and joint pain, but it has added symptoms including tingling and numbness in the appendages, visual impairment and in some cases loss of mobility.

Child Rheumatoid Arthritis

Child rheumatoid arthritis appears between the ages of six months and 16 years, with signs of swelling and redness in the joints accompanied by pain. The greater number of joints affected, the less likely the disease will go into remission. Like other autoimmune diseases, the body cannot distinguish between its own white blood cells and those of an invader, so the immune system destroys these good cells damaging healthy tissue, creating inflammation and pain. About 50,000 children in the US are affected with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (JRA), which requires extensive diagnostic testing to confirm. Treatment for JRA involves a combination of medication, physical therapy and exercise. The primary goal is to relieve pain and inflammation and either prevent or slow down the destruction of joints in the child's body.

Child Fibromyalgia

Another autoimmune disease that was always associated with adults is child fibromyalgia. However, in 1993 a team of Israeli doctors reported that 6.2 percent of 338 healthy schoolchildren between the ages of nine and 15 met the criteria for the fibromyalgia syndrome. Around the same period of time, a rheumatologist in the US claimed that about 45% of the kids referred to him had the syndrome. These reports proved that childhood complaints need to be taken seriously. When a child has fibromyalgia, the symptoms may appear to be flu-like initially, only the child never really recovers. The disease comes on slowly and gradually, exhibiting itself with restless sleep and difficulties getting up in the morning. Aches, pains, difficulty controlling the bladder and a burning feeling deep in the bones are just some of the symptoms. Good diet and exercise habits along with some sleep aids can help a child live with the fibromyalgia flare-ups that occur. It is critical that the child knows the disease can be controlled and he or she has a lot of power in the way things go.

Child Lyme Disease

Lyme disease presents as an autoimmune disease, however, it is contracted through the bite of an infected tick. Associated mostly with the woods of North America, child Lyme disease can be very debilitating. Kids who spend a lot of time outdoors, particularly where there are deer and mice, need to be educated about the potential for tick bites. If caught early and treated with antibiotics, a full recovery is usually made. The disease presents with a red-ringed rash, prolonged flu-like symptoms, joint pain, swelling, breathing difficulties and facial paralysis. It can progress to meningitis and if left undiscovered or untreated, Lyme disease can affect the heart, and cause arthritis and headaches through adulthood.

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