Juvenile arthritis affects more kids than you think

Posted at 9:10 PM, Nov 13, 2016
and last updated 2016-11-14 08:21:35-05

Nearly 300,000 children and teenagers in the U.S. have some form of arthritis. It's more commonly found in children than type one diabetes and other childhood diseases you may have heard of.

Take Kinsley Rivera for example. She started showing signs she had one of the seven types of juvenile arthritis when she was just 20-months-old.

The now 6-year-old had a hard time walking and opted to roll around instead of crawling because it hurt her knees. It took five months to pinpoint the root of the problem.

As Kinsley got older, she learned how to do different exercises and stretches to strengthen her muscles.

"She was having a hard time with dexterity," her mother, Shelbey, explained. "So, she couldn't really write because her fingers hurt and that's a lot of where the arthritis hit was her knees and also her fingers."

Arthritis, inflammation that causes pain, stiffness and swelling of joints, effects each child differently. That's why one of the leading experts in the field of pediatric rheumatology in the Pacific Northwest, Dr. W. Patrick Knibbe, says early diagnosis is the key to best possible future outcomes.

After all, the director of children's rheumatology for St. Luke's in Meridian says parents know best.

"They're [parents] kind of the early warning system, if you will," he said. "They're the ones to recognize that their kids aren't doing quite as well as they should be."

Early signs and symptoms in children include a fever, rash, stiffness, especially in morning hours, and not being able to bend or straighten joints completely.

"They may not be able to play the entire soccer game because their heels or their ankles hurt," Dr. Knibbe said.

Treatment plans may include medication and proper nutrition and exercise. It's a use it or lose it attitude for someone like Kinsley who won't grow out of it. She will always have her ups and downs with this condition.

But, for the Rivera family in Caldwell, they're not letting it get them down.

"She still goes and plays on the monkey bars and the swing," Shelbey Rivera concluded. "She's still a kid, she still wants to play and do those things."

There is a juvenile arthritis support group that meets a few times a year in the Treasure Valley. For more information, dial (208) 706-5930.