Continuing on from my last post, I would like to discuss another serious condition that can cause swelling and warmth in a child’s foot.
There are a group of diseases in the body in which the immune system, the body’s defense force, is involved in the destruction of normal tissue. Called autoimmune diseases, the main mechanism in these conditions is the active damage of normal body tissue by an immune system run amuck. Joint tissue can be affected by some of these conditions, and a common disease that is a part of this group of illnesses is called rheumatoid arthritis. When this condition is seen in children, it is called juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (JRA).
JRA can start as young as 6 months of age, and usually begins before the age of 16. It can involve many joints in the body, a smaller group of joints, or only a few. The initial symptoms can include a swollen joint, a new rash, a spiking fever, or simply limping. As the condition evolves, the joints may become red, warm, swollen, stiff, and the child may begin to limp or refuse to participate in activities. More wide-spread cases can result in the child looking sick and pale, with high fevers and a rash that comes and goes with the fever. Eye problems can also develop, that may or may not have symptoms.
The diagnosis of JRA can be made through multiple means, including blood tests, organ swelling, x-rays, and joint fluid analysis.
In the foot, rheumatoid arthritis of any variety can result in devastating deformity and joint destruction over time. If the immune reaction against joint tissue is not controlled, eventually the joints can become worn and deformed. There can be a slower rate of growth, and a child in chronic pain from this condition can have poor activity desire and poor school performance.
There are medicines that treat JRA just like the treatment of adult rheumatoid arthritis. These vary per symptom severity, and many milder cases of JRA actually can go into remission for many years without any chronic joint changes.
If your child develops joint pain and swelling, especially if a fever and/or rash is present and several joints are inflamed, it is important to have them evaluated for potential causes, which may include juvenile rheumatoid arthritis.