Juvenile ankylosing spondylitis or JAS is a form of arthritis that concerns the spine; it can also affect other sites where the muscle, ligaments and tendons are attached to the bone. The word “ankylosing” literally means rigid or stiff, “spondyl” refers to spine and “itis” translates to inflammation. JAS causes swelling of the spine and other major joints, resulting in pain and stiffness. It is difficult to identify JAS at an early stage, as only a few specialists know the early radiological signs. Be aware of the signs and symptoms of ankylosing spondylitis in children to be able to help protect your family.
Symptoms of Spine Injury
Diagnosing JAS early is important to be able to start on a correct treatment program. However, accurately diagnosing JAS is quite difficult as the symptoms are very similar to other common back problems and the indications occur gradually over the years. Symptoms usually appear as pain and swelling in the lower back. While the stiffness starts in the lower back, it will slowly move up the spine and the neck. The swelling that causes the pain may also result to fused joints in the spine, which makes walking or even standing difficult.
The pain in the lower back usually strikes when at rest, such as when sleeping or just waking up. The pain may even wake a sleeping child out of a deep sleep. Exercise and a hot shower can usually alleviate the pain, however, over time, as the pain crawls through the spine, your ability to continue your normal schedule can become compromised. As the inflammation spreads, it can also affect the chest and cause the ribcage to fuse, thus making breathing difficult.
Symptoms of Joint Injury
In addition to the lower back pain, stiffness also appears in the sacroiliac joint (hipbone). The pain is often confused with symptoms of herniated disc or sciatica as the pain can be felt in the buttocks. Most JAS patients suffer joint pain in their hips and shoulders. The soreness is most intense in the evening while at rest and in the morning after inactivity. Swelling of small joints like the hands and feet is rarely encountered, but it does. Extremities can be affected for months, but unlike rheumatoid arthritis, deformation or fracture does not occur in most cases. However, in advanced cases, the hip joints can be deformed if inflammation persists without proper therapy.
Other Symptoms of Ankylosing Spondylitis
Aside from the spinal and joint symptoms mentioned above, JAS can also affect other body parts. It can affect the heart and other organs, resulting to heart valve problems, myocarditis, anemia, aortitis, bowel disease and psoriasis. Another serious problem connected to JAS is iritis, inflammation of the eye. Many JAS patients experience this problem, which can cause pain, redness and sensitivity to light.
Be aware of symptoms of ankylosing spondylitis in children and always make it a point to mention any abnormality observed to your child’s physician. The symptoms may be similar to other common back pain and your observations may mean nothing serious. However, early diagnosis is the key in managing juvenile ankylosing spondylitis, so it is better to be cautious than be late and sorry. If your child is diagnosed with JAS, work with your child’s physician to reduce stiffness and pain, prevent any deformities and help them maintain an active and normal routine as possible.
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