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It can be intimidating to walk into an appointment with an arthritis specialist. This article outlines that questions you should ask the doctor in order to learn more about and understand your child's juvenile arthritis.

Juvenile idiopathic arthritis is a condition characterized by joint inflammation in children and adolescents. If your family doctor or your child’s pediatrician suspects that your child may have juvenile idiopathic arthritis, they will refer you to a rheumatologist.

It can be difficult to prepare for an appointment with a specialist that you are not familiar with to discuss a disease you are not familiar with. Hence, it is best to compile a list of questions that you may have about the disease beforehand so you can make sure to get as much information out of your appointment as possible. We have some tips for you.
  1. What is a juvenile idiopathic arthritis? This is an important question as most people will not know what the disease is and the rheumatologist can explain in non-scientific terminology what the disease is and why it develops.
  2. What was the cause of my child’s juvenile idiopathic arthritis? Many parents worry that something they did caused their child to develop the disease. In fact, the disease is called “idiopathic” because the cause of it is unknown and there was likely nothing the parents did to cause the disease.
  3. What is autoimmune disease? Juvenile idiopathic arthritis is an autoimmune disease, which means that it develops because the immune system accidently identifies healthy tissue as foreign and starts to attack it. This can be a hard concept to wrap your head around and a rheumatologist will be able to explain to you what an autoimmune disease is and how exactly it affects the joints in arthritis.
  4. What is inflammation? Inflammation can be hard to understand as it is a scientific phenomenon that occurs in our bodies. Inflammation is a big component of arthritis and understanding what inflammation is can help you understand why your child develops these symptoms.
  5. What kind of juvenile idiopathic arthritis does my child have? There are six different subtypes of juvenile idiopathic arthritis and each are slightly different from others. While their clinical care is generally the same regardless of subtype, it is still best to know what kind of arthritis your child has in case any new drugs become approved in the future for the specific type of juvenile idiopathic arthritis.
  6. What are the other symptoms that my child will develop as the disease progresses? Arthritis is not a curable disease and while it can be managed symptomatically and the progression can be slowed down, the disease will still progress to a point and your child will experience other symptoms. Therefore, it is best to know and make notes of what other symptoms you can expect your child to develop as time goes on.
  7. Will the disease continue into adulthood? In fact, most children with juvenile idiopathic arthritis go into near-permanent remission as they become adults. Therefore, many children do outgrow the disease. However, this is the dependent on the kind of the arthritis your child has so it’s best to ask your child’s doctor what he or she thinks regarding whether your child will outgrow the disease.
  8. Is the disease heritable? In fact, studies have found an association between the presence of certain genes, mainly a gene called HLA-B27, and the development of arthritis. Therefore, it can be a heritable disease. If you want to know whether your other children are at a risk of developing juvenile idiopathic arthritis, then you might want to also inquire about getting a genetic test done.
  9. What are the treatments available? Currently, unfortunately, there is no cure for the disease and it is mainly treated symptomatically. However, it can be well managed with early and aggressive treatment so it is important to know the treatment options out there.
  10. What are the lifestyle modifications I can make to help my child’s disease? There are several different types of lifestyle modifications that can improve the condition of patients with juvenile idiopathic arthritis, such as exercise and maintaining a healthy weight. Ask your child’s doctor what else you can do on top of medication to help manage the condition.
  11. What types of exercises and sports can my child participate in? While exercising is an important part of managing arthritis, some exercises and sports are better than others depending on the joints that are involved. Ask your doctor what is the best way for your child to stay active.
  12. Is my child able to do all the activities that he or she was able to do previous to disease manifestation? Depending on the type of arthritis and how severe it is, your child is likely going to have no problem living his or her life as they previously did. However, it is best to ask the doctor as the answer can vary from patient to patient.

  • Filocamo, Giovanni, et al. "Parent and child acceptable symptom state in juvenile idiopathic arthritis." The Journal of rheumatology 39.4 (2012): 856-863.
  • Filocamo, Giovanni, et al. "A new approach to clinical care of juvenile idiopathic arthritis: the Juvenile Arthritis Multidimensional Assessment Report." The Journal of rheumatology 38.5 (2011): 938-953.
  • Sawyer, M. G., et al. "The relationship between health-related quality of life, pain and coping strategies in juvenile idiopathic arthritis." Rheumatology 43.3 (2003): 325-330.
  • Photo courtesy of SteadyHealth

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