In Canada, it is estimated that more than three of every 1,000 children aged 18 or under live with arthritis – that’s over 24,000 children and teenagers.
Arthritis is a chronic disease associated with joint pain, stiffness and swelling. There are a variety of forms of arthritis that affect children and teens. The most frequently diagnosed form is juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA). It can severely reduce quality of life and make it difficult for children to play with friends or take part in sports and other physical activities.
BC Children’s Hospital rheumatology department provides diagnosis and treatment for children with arthritis and other rheumatic diseases.
Although there is no cure for childhood arthritis, with treatment and support from their health care team and families, the arthritis can be fully controlled most of the time and children with arthritis can lead a productive, active life. Early diagnosis and an effective treatment plan can help control pain and prevent permanent joint damage.
Working with pediatric rheumatologists across Canada, Dr. Jaime Guzman, BC Children’s rheumatologist, CFRI investigator and UBC Clinical Associate Professor, showed in a recent study that JIA symptoms often return after the disease becomes inactive, but these flares are usually mild.
As part of this research, Dr. Guzman and colleagues considered the decision that families and doctors face when a child’s JIA becomes inactive: to continue or stop treatment. They found patients have a 42 per cent chance of experiencing a flare within a year of their JIA becoming inactive, but children who manage to successfully stop all treatments only have a 25 per cent chance of needing to re-start treatment in the following year.
They also found that children with certain subtypes of JIA were less likely to experience flares. For example, children with systemic JIA – a type of JIA that causes fevers and rashes in addition to swollen joints – have only a 3 per cent chance of experiencing a flare within a year of discontinuing treatment.
To learn more about the study findings, read the full summary of this JIA research on CFRI’s website