For Parents

What is rheumatism in childhood?

We would like to kindly inform you personnally about the individual illnesses, how they are diagnosed and treated. Kindly contact us if you have questions. 

The term Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis comprises several subtypes of inflammatory diseases with arthritis. These are the names of these subtypes also called categories:

  • Oligoarthritis (persistent or extended) often complicated by uveitis (iridocyclitis)
  • Rheumatoid factor positive Polyarthritis
  • Rheumatoid factor negative Polyarthritis
  • Psoriatic arthritis
  • Enthesitis related arthritis
  • Systemic juvenile idiopathic arthritis

Further rheumatic diseases in childhood are connective tissue diseases (collagenosis). The main diseases in this group are:

  • Systemic Lupus erythematosus (SLE)
  • Juvenile Dermatomyositis
  • Localized Skleroderma
  • Systemic sclerosis
  • Mixed connective tissue disease (Sharp-Syndrome)

Vasculitides are a further group of inflammatory rheumatic diseases in childhood which appear in various forms with skin, musculoskeletal or systemic organ involvement.   

Frequently asked questions

What kinds of rheumatisms do we face with children?

The most frequent inflammatory rheumatic diseases are:

  • Infection induced rheumatism (reactive arthritis)
  • Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (JIA)
  • Connective tissue diseases (Collagenosis)
  • Vasculitis syndromes
  • Bone rheumatism (Chronic Recurrent Multifocal Osteomyelitis - CRMO)

With these different rheumatic forms the inflammation process may occur in several body areas so that – depending on the illness – besides the joints, also eyes, skin, mucles, bones or inner organs may be affected (more information).

Rheumatism in childhood - at which age may first symptoms appear?
The most frequent inflammatory rheumatic illness of childhood is Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis. It may start at a very early age of a child sometimes already in the first or second year, in school age children or adolescents.

Collagenoses and vaculitis syndromes may occur in any age group. According to the definition a rheumatic illness is called “juvenile”, if it occurs before the 16th birthday.

How can rheumatism be recognized in a child at any early stage?
The most frequent rheumatism form – the Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis – starts with swollen joints and pain. Children often do not complain about pain, but  rather take a joint protecting position like flexion position of the  knee joint. Attentive parents see the changes in the movement pattern of their child. Often there is also a stiffness in the joints in the morning. Continued joint pain may also lead to unrest during sleep or even to an increasingly aggressive or depressive conduct.

Sometimes rheumatism starts with fever of indefinite origin, that holds for weeks or recurs over and over again. Accompanying skin irritations, joint and muscle pain or even involvement of the inner organs can occur.

Connective tissue diseases and vasculitis syndromes often show skin lesions as first symptoms, frequently combined with unspecific symptoms such as increased temperature, tiredness, reduced appetite and reduced general condition.

What is the cause for rheumatism?
So far the exact cause has been unknown. One assumes that rheumatism is triggered through unfavourable coincidence of inner factors (disposition, abnormal reaction of the immune system) and outer impact (infections, accidents, psychic strains, stress). Today there are no indications for the fact that one may prevent the outbreak of rheumatism in a child by preventive measures.

May rheumatism be cured in a child?
As the cause for rheumatism has to date not been fully explored, and is also manifold, there are no drugs available that would promise a comprehensive cure. The therapy concepts available today allow good results to be achieved in most cases. Rheumatism in childhood may come to a halt at any time, with an early and consistent treatment mostly also without any lasting damages.