Doctors: Arthritis can also affect childrenDespite arthritis being thought of by many as associated with old age, Kim Joong-gon, a doctor at Seoul National University Hospital, said children can suffer rheumatoid arthritis.
The U.S. National Library of Medicine in its online service states that “Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic disease that causes inflammation of the joints and surrounding tissues.” The online service goes on to say that no causes are known at this stage. However, it is presumed to be an autoimmune disease wherein the immune system attacks healthy tissue, which it has mistaken for an alien substance such as a virus. The disease is usually found in people between the ages of 25 and 55 and more women than men are affected.
Dr. Kim says that when a child sufferer’s body temperature remains above 39 degrees Centigrade for more than two weeks, it is considered to be full-body rheumatoid arthritis. He said the symptoms of full-body rheumatoid arthritis are very distinctive. “The patients suffer deeply enough to shiver when their body temperature rises but when it cools down they act normally, as if nothing had happened,” Dr. Kim said.
Even before any joint pain occurs, body temperatures rise and fall by abnormal amounts at least once a day for weeks or months. Unusual health problems in other organs appear as well. Dr. Kim said that for such reasons, until a child is diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, the ailment could be mistaken for other diseases such as leukemia.
Kim Kwang-nam, a doctor at Hallym Medical Center, said, parents often mistake the symptoms for a cold and fail to obtain the treatment the child needs.
Blood tests can help identify the disease as a sufferer’s white blood cells increase and the red blood cells decrease. Yet there is no precise index to determine if a child is suffering from rheumatoid arthritis. Therefore doctors also conduct bone marrow analysis and biopsies to rule out other diseases such as leukemia.
Dr. Kim said if the disease is not properly treated, it can affect a child’s growth. In some cases, parents had only taken their children to a hospital after the joints were irreparably damaged, the doctor said.
Patients are also advised to continue to take the drugs prescribed by doctors for at least a year.
by Hwang Se-hee