Psoriatic arthritis is a condition that combines the effects of psoriasis and arthritis. This autoimmune condition makes the body’s immune system mistakes healthy skin cells for foreign cells and attacks them. This leads to a buildup of flaky, crusted skin. The condition is characterized by swollen, painful joints with scaly sores on the skin. When the condition affects children, it is referred to as juvenile psoriatic arthritis.
The symptoms of this condition may vary from one child to another. Common symptoms include:
- Swelling of joints (fingers and toes are most affected)
- Painful, stiff movements
- Pitted nails
- Swelling, pain, and redness in the eyes
- Red rash on the scalp, joints, face, and trunk. The rash may or may not be itchy.
The exact cause of juvenile psoriatic arthritis is unclear. A combination of environmental triggers and genetics is believed to trigger this condition. However, there have been cases where children have been diagnosed with this condition despite not having a family history of the condition.
Some of the common factors that could trigger it include:
- Damage to the skin
- Emotional stress
- Side effects of certain medications
- Allergic reactions
- Respiratory infections
- Change in weather
Boys and girls, both can be affected by the condition but girls are at a higher risk. Most cases are diagnosed among children between the ages of 6 and 10 years. It is usually detected in girls at a younger age and boys at an older age. Having a close relative or parent with psoriatic arthritis or being overweight will also increase the child’s risk of contracting the disease.
The earlier this condition is diagnosed, the easier it is to treat. It also reduces the risk of complications and joint damage. Diagnosis starts with understanding the child’s family history of arthritis and psoriasis and a physical examination. In some cases, additional tests such as an MRI, antinuclear antibody blood test, uric acid test, and eye examination may also be required.
Treatment for this condition is aimed at relieving the swelling and pain and preventing further damage. The best form of treatment for a child depends on his/her age and the severity of the symptoms being showcased. It can take the form of
- Physical therapy such as exercises, occupational therapy, and hydrotherapy
- Dietary changes and nutritional supplements
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
- Steroid treatment
- Biologic drugs
- Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs)
- Topical treatment for the rash
Also, making a few lifestyle changes such as maintaining a healthy weight and preventing exposure to secondhand smoking can also help.
There is no known cure for this condition but with proper treatment and early diagnosis, the frequency of flare-ups and their intensity can be controlled. Proper treatment can also reduce the risk of further complications such as osteoporosis. Thus, if a child has painful, swollen joints, you must consult a doctor and seek treatment immediately.