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Study links stress and childhood arthritis.

Severe emotional stress may play an important role in the onset of rheumatoid arthritis in young children, according to Dr. John Baum, professor of pediatrics at the University of Rochester School of Medicine, Rochester, New York.

Of 88 arthritic children in the Rochester area observed, 28 percent had undergone a psychologically traumatic event such as the divorce of, separation from, or death of a parent before onset of the disease. In comparison, of 2,952 non-arthritic children in the same area, 11 percent came from broken homes. Adopted children were found three times as often in the arthritic group than in the healthy group.

The importance of stress in juvenile rheumatoid arthritis has also been underlined by a Finnish scientific team, which reported that 37 percent of arthritic children in their study group had suffered a significant psychological problem a year before the disease's onset. Several factors probably must be present, says Dr. Baum, for the disease to appear.

Though it is frequently assumed that arthritis is a problem that comes only with age, surveys in England and other countries show that as many as one child in 1,000 may have some form of chronic arthritis.

In trying to find the cause of the disease in children, a research team led by Dr. Barbara M. Ansell of the Clinical Research Center at Northwick Park Hospital, London, England, produced evidence that heredity and viral infections may be involved. Long-term studies have shown a number of distinct arthritis patterns in children that may have different causes.

There are many forms of juvenile arthritis. But the most serious begins with a high fever, rash and changes in various organs, and can progress to severely crippling arthritis.

Although the outlook for these young patients is good, prolonged hospital treatment is often necessary. Medications have been the mainstay of treatment but has special risks in juveniles. For this reason, part of the recent work by Dr. Ansell and her associates has been about the use of splints in addition to drugs.

The principle behind splinting arthritic juveniles is to maintain and improve the position and functioning of the affected joints. The object is to limit any deformity that may occur.

Infection and the accumulation of a starch like substance -- a condition called amyloidosis -- are two causes of death in youngsters with juvenile arthritis. Amyloidosis can cause kidney failure.

In 1,300 arthritic children studied, 4 percent developed amyloidosis, though the incidence rises to 7 percent within 15 years from the onset of the disease. A follow-up study found that this condition is most common in children who have persistent illnesses or prolonged arthritic activity.

The rate of arthritic involvement among children is rising, observers note, as are nutritional deficiencies in Great Britain and the United States.

Both populations have a fascination with snack foods that are notably lacking in essential minerals. Although arthritis is not a nutrition-linked disease with regard to diet alone, its occurrence has been associated with an oversupply of toxin-producing foods. Many children subsist on fried snacks, sugared drinks and animal products, including large amounts of dairy foods.
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Publication:Nutrition Health Review
Date:Jan 1, 1991
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