Doctor: Juvenile arthritis hard to diagnose in children

August 6, 2013 3:18:04 PM PDT
It was a medical mystery. A fifth grader began having hip pain. His symptoms would change day to day, and his teachers thought he was "faking." It took five months and five doctors to figure out what was wrong.

Jack Griswold has pain in his joints and limited movement in one hip. Sometimes it would hurt so much that he limped. When he started using crutches, some of Jack's fifth grade teachers were skeptical.

"They thought I was faking. I had just moved, so they thought I was just kind of scared of school and I was angry about that," he said.

His parents first thought it was growing pains but realized it was more and began taking him to doctors. It took five doctors to figure out what Jack had: juvenile arthritis.

"It's not the best-case scenario but it isn't the worst," Jack said.

Jack's pain and stiffness would come and go. Lab tests don't always catch it either, and that's how juvenile arthritis can be overlooked in some children.

"Eight to 10 months is the typical time frame. Sometimes I see children who have had arthritis missed for 5 to 10 years," said Dr. Ankur Kamdar, a UTHealth pediatric rheumatologist.

Now that Jack is getting the right treatment for juvenile arthritis, he's off crutches.

"It's been a huge difference. I mean, physically, it was almost immediate once we got on the right medications," Jack's mother, Fiona Griswold said.

Untreated, juvenile arthritis can cause a child to permanently lose motion. But how do parents know if a child's pain is caused by arthritis?

"Typically, juvenile arthritis is worse in the morning, associated with swelling, and it gets better as the day goes on," Dr. Kamdar said.

And doctors say listen to the child.

"I feel much better, physically and mentally," Jack said.

Because Jack finally knows what has been causing his pain.

About 300,000 American children have a form of juvenile arthritis.

Find Christi on Facebook at ABC13-Christi Myers or on Twitter at @ChristiMyers13


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