Pediatric arthritis, also known as juvenile arthritis, includes different types of arthritis-related joint disorders that affect children aged less than 16 years. The causes of arthritis in children are often unclear. In most cases, abnormal immune response is blamed for inflammation and pain of the joints.
Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, also known as juvenile idiopathic arthritis, is the most common form of arthritis in children. Children may also develop juvenile ankylosing spondylitis, juvenile psoriatic arthritis, juvenile systemic lupus erythematosus, juvenile dermatomyositis, juvenile vasculitis and septic arthritis.
Causes of Pediatric Arthritis
Although genes are not directly associated with arthritis in childhood, nonetheless, certain genes increase the risk of developing autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis and juvenile systemic lupus erythematosus when exposed to certain environmental factors.
Certain human leukocyte antigens (HLA) are associated with increased susceptibility to autoimmune diseases. When a child inherits the DR4 HLA antigen, he/she will be genetically susceptible to developing juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. The B27 HLA antigen increases the risk of developing juvenile ankylosing spondylitis in children. Juvenile systemic lupus erythematosus is more likely to develop in children with DR2 and DR3 HLA antigens.
However, in some cases even children born without these antigens can develop pediatric arthritis. When exposed to certain environmental factor, viruses or bacteria, autoimmune disorders such as juvenile rheumatoid arthritis and juvenile psoriatic arthritis may develop in children with the aforementioned HLA antigens.
Although rare, some health experts suggest a possible link between arthritis and allergy. Juvenile arthritis may be triggered by food allergies. However, the allergens that trigger inflammation and pain of the joints may vary from person to person.
Maintaining a food journal can help you to identify the possible allergens in your diet. Common foods that are believed to trigger allergic reactions and arthritis include milk, dairy and wheat products.
Although rare, arthritis may develop when microbes invade the joints of children. This form of arthritis known as septic arthritis or infectious arthritis usually occurs in children with compromised immune system.
Pediatric arthritis may occur following infection caused by Staphylococcus bacteria. Although staph infection usually affects the respiratory tract, in a small number of cases, the bacteria may spread to the joints.
In children with severely weakened immune system, bacteria entering the joint tissues through the broken skin or infected wound cause arthritis.
Blacklegged Tick Bite
A type of arthritis called Lyme disease occurs when children are bitten by blacklegged ticks infected by the Borrelia burgdorferi bacterium.
Septic arthritis may develop in children suffering from bacterial meningitis caused by the bacterium hemophilus. The bacteria on entering the bloodstream are transported to the joints. They settle, grow and replicate in the joints, triggering arthritis.
In a small number of cases, infectious arthritis occurs following a viral infection. In children, arthritis may develop several days after the first symptoms of mumps or German measles appear. The viruses spread to the joints, causing inflammation and pain of the joints.
Certain fungi associated with pulmonary infection can trigger infectious arthritis in children. Although rare, symptoms of arthritis may develop following a fungal infection of the lungs.
In a small number of cases, fungi attack the joint tissues after entering the joint through an injury or broken skin.