Reactive Arthritis In Children: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Arthritis is a medical condition characterized by pain, stiffness, swelling in one or more joints. It can also involve other internal organs and the immune system. Arthritis can develop spontaneously or gradual in onset. There are various forms of arthritis; reactive arthritis is one of them. This form of arthritis occurs as a reaction to the infection in body.

Reactive arthritis not only involves inflammatory changes in joints, but also changes in eyes and urinary tract. It usually occurs in young adults but sometimes the condition also affects children and babies. Reactive arthritis in babies usually develops due to infection in bowel, diarrhea, and sore throat.

Reactive arthritis is usually short lived and it lasts for few weeks or months.

The symptoms disappear completely without leaving any deformity or disability in future. However, to relieve the symptoms the child may need pain reducing medicine, antibiotics etc.

Causes Of Reactive Arthritis In Babies

The exact cause of reactive arthritis in children is not known. However it is believed that genetic factor has a role to play, especially in children and babies. Certain pattern of genes which are passed from parents to the child may be a triggering factor. Infection in the body is primary cause of reactive arthritis.

This means any type of infection either bacterial or viral in children can precipitate reactive arthritis.

Infection causes inflammation in the body tissues. Bacterial infection in intestine such as salmonella, eating adulterated food leading to diarrhea due to bacterial infection, urinary tract infection in children and sore throat are some of the cause for reactionary arthritis.

In some cases even the condition can occur after boils. If the child is infected with germs that cause sexually transmitted disease such as gonorrhea, he may develop reactive arthritis.

Common Symptoms Of Reactive Arthritis

The symptoms of reactive arthritis usually develop few days or weeks after infection in the digestive tract or throat in children. In adults it mainly appears following sexually transmitted disease or infection in the gut. Usually the joints, urinary tract and eyes are affected in reactive arthritis. Initially the child may have following symptoms;

  • Pain in weight bearing joint such as knees, hips, ankles. Pain can be intense or moderate.
  • Pain aggravates on movement.
  • Pain is present in the heels as a result the child is not able to walk properly.
  • The affected joint is swollen.
  • Soreness in the eyes.
  • Eyes become dry and red.
  • Constant itching in the eyes due to dryness.
  • Eyelids become swollen.
  • Eyes are sensitive to bright light.
  • Pain and burning while passing urine.
  • Increased urine frequency.

Treatment For Reactive Arthritis In Children

Most cases of reactive arthritis do not last long. The symptoms gradually recede after few weeks or months. Treatment is aimed to relieve the child from pain and make his movement easier. The child should be consulted to a pediatrician. Doctor after taking complete medical history and evaluating medical test will diagnose the condition.

In order to relieve pain and inflammation, the doctor may prescribe a short course of anti inflammatory medicine. If the infection is present, he may also prescribe antibiotics.

Rest and sleep are important aspect of treatment. After few days, mild physiotherapy exercise will help in improving the movement.