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Rheumatism is considered an illness of old people. That's why parents are often surprised to learn that their children are suffering. Rheumatic diseases in young people are also difficult to identify. If the joints become inflamed, those affected feel pain, the area swells, overheats and the movement is restricted.
The disease usually manifests itself in the fact that the corresponding joint of the children feels stiff in the morning; Sitting for a long time hurts just as much as getting up, and those affected adopt a posture that is easy on the joints. Or they lean on their wrists to protect their fingers.
Those affected lose the desire to exert themselves physically; their physical performance drops; they have a fever; they suffer from inflammation of the skin and eyes.
Parents are well advised to pay attention to the early symptoms, because the younger the children, the less they talk about them. Or they are so young that they cannot speak at all: Child rheumatism occurs at the age of 1.5 years.
What are the causes?
The immune system overreacts in rheumatism. The body's defense now attacks its own tissue, for example the mucous membrane of the joints. Some people, children and adults alike, have a genetic predisposition to rheumatic complaints - in any case, overreactions of the innate and acquired immune systems interact.
When do you need to see a doctor?
When the first symptoms appear, it usually takes two months for the family to see the rheumatologist. But this is too late, because the earlier treatment begins, the better the disease can be cured. But if the process drags on for years, those affected also suffer from rheumatism as adults. Therefore, if you have joint pain, go to your family doctor early.
With early treatment, the disease can be treated well, but the healing process takes several months and relapses occur.
Learn movements anew
Physiotherapy is often the order of the day. Because of the gentle posture, the children practice a wrong movement pattern and have to learn to use their hands normally again.
If the diagnosis is late, bone loss, malposition and growth disorders can sometimes develop. Muscle wasting can also be a result of incorrect posture.
The pediatrician examines the body and determines how many and which joints are affected. A blood test shows the extent of the inflammation, but rheumatoid laboratory values are less common in children than in adults.
Ultrasound shows in the affected joints how thick the inner skin of the joint is, magnetic resonance imaging helps with joints that are difficult to access. X-rays are only used in the case of advanced illness, since rheumatism does not produce any visible changes in these images in the early phases.
Rheumatoid articular rheumatism can put a psychological strain on children even more than in adults. The consequences include: fears of not being able to move; Fears of injections, medication, and blood sampling.
Medicines can trigger side effects such as nausea and stomach problems, which sometimes results in a high sensitivity to smells and colors.
Some people suffer from decreased concentration; they react irritably or are sad. They are afraid of the therapy and misunderstandings about the disease. Your body changes and with it the self-concept.
You have to give up hobbies, and especially sporty children have a big problem with that. They lose acquaintances with whom they share physical activity.
They are bullied in school and kindergarten, and sometimes dreams of the future burst, for example as a dancer or competitive athlete.
Older children are inhibited in their development because their illness makes them more dependent on their parents than would correspond to their phase of life.
How common is child rheumatism?
Around 40,000 children and young people in Germany suffer from rheumatic diseases, especially inflammation of the joints. That's about ten out of 10,000. In about 8 out of 10 children, this inflammation heals itself and leaves no permanent damage. However, 10 to 20% of those affected develop a chronic disease - rheumatoid arthritis. 15,000 young people probably suffer from this. (Dr. Utz Anhalt)