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Junior joint problems.

I thought arthritis was a problem for older folks, but our young son's classmate was suffering from aches and pains and was recently diagnosed with juvenile arthritis (]A). Is this a life sentence, or will he age out of it?

Julie Ryan, email

Yes, there's a good chance he will. Up to half of kids under 6 bounce back from milder forms of the disease with customized drug therapy to reduce swelling and relieve pain. "Having juvenile arthritis in fewer than five joints is a good indicator that youngsters will outgrow the disease," explains Michael Blakley, M.D., who specializes in rheumatology at Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis.

Having more than five inflamed joints, or a history of the skin disease psoriasis (also an autoimmune disease in which the immune system mistakenly attacks normal cells), predicts more lasting problems. Even then, steroids and new immune-suppressing medicines called biologics can stop inflammation and help protect kids with JA from bone, muscle, and eye complications that were once commonplace, says Dr. Blakley.

JA affects mobility and energy levels, so, if you want to help, encourage your son to join up with this boy in physical activities that he can enjoy. To learn more about JA, browse arthritis.org.

BY Cory SerVaas, M.D. and Wendy Braun, R.N.

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Title Annotation:Medical Mailbox
Publication:Saturday Evening Post
Article Type:Brief article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 1, 2012
Words:217
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