SALT LAKE CITY - Arthritis is commonly associated with elderly people, but some might be surprised how often it affects children, too.
When most people hear the word arthritis, they probably think of osteoarthritis - wear and tear on the joints that usually affects the elderly. However, approximately 300,000 American children suffer from a different form, one caused by problems with the immune system.
"In a child's given high school, five or six children will have juvenile arthritis," said Dr. Sara Stern with Primary Children's Hospital. "You might not know about it, but they'll have it."
She said arthritis hits more kids than diabetes and other childhood diseases combined.
"Our first major battle is just educating the population that this does happen and is incredibly common in children," Stern said.
Currently, there is no cure for juvenile arthritis, but Stern said treatments are getting much better and plenty of children have it go into remission.
"With arthritis, a lot of the time we're trying to convince people first that children can get arthritis. Then we're trying to educate them about what childhood arthritis is," Stern said.
Juvenile arthritis can do long-term damage to hips, knees and other joints, depending on the type of the disease., but research over the past 20 years has improved the prognosis, Stern said.
"The whole prognosis of arthritis has really changed into a much more manageable disease, like Type 1 diabetes. Just 30 years ago there were very few medications we could use. Now we are really in a renaissance of treatments," she said.
Doctors can choose from multiple medications to treat patients, Stern said.
"In the vast majority of children we can find medication that really works for them. We don't have a cure but at least we're very good at treating the arthritis," she said.%3Cimg%20src%3D%22http%3A//beacon.deseretconnect.com/beacon.gif%3Fcid%3D141145%26pid%3D46%22%20/%3E