Arthritis, itself a group of more than 100 different diseases, is one category of rheumatic diseases. Rheumatic diseases may cause pain, stiffness, and swelling in the joints and other supporting body structures, such as muscles, tendons, ligaments, and bones. However, rheumatic diseases can affect other areas of the body, including internal organs. Some rheumatic diseases involve connective tissues (called connective tissue diseases), while others may be caused by autoimmune disorders, which are diseases involving the body's immune system attacking its own healthy cells and tissues.
The purpose of the immune system is to keep infectious microorganisms, such as certain bacteria, viruses, and fungi, out of the body, and to destroy any infectious microorganisms that do invade the body. The immune system is made up of a complex and vital network of cells and organs that protect the body from infection.
When the immune system does not function properly, it leaves the body susceptible to an array of diseases. Allergies and hypersensitivity to certain substances are considered immune system disorders. In addition, the immune system plays a role in the rejection process of transplanted organs or tissue. Other examples of immune disorders include:
Arthritis and other rheumatic diseases may be treated by your child's pediatrician and/or other medical specialists and health care providers. Several doctors from different medical specialties may be involved in the treatment of your child at the same time. This multidisciplinary team approach is particularly important in managing symptoms of the rheumatic disease, especially as many symptoms are chronic and change in severity over time. Some of the more common medical professionals involved in the treatment of arthritis or other rheumatic diseases may include the following:
The orthopaedist may have completed up to 14 years of formal education. After becoming licensed to practice medicine, the orthopaedic surgeon may become board certified by passing both oral and written examinations given by the American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery.
Many orthopaedic surgeons choose to practice general orthopaedics, while others specialize in certain areas of the body (for example, foot, hand, shoulder, spine, hip, or knee), or in a specialized area of orthopaedic care (for example, sports medicine, or trauma medicine). Some orthopaedists may specialize in several areas, and may collaborate with other specialists, such as neurosurgeons, rheumatologists, and physiatrists in caring for patients.
Physical therapists, or PTs, are important members of the healthcare team. They evaluate and provide treatment for persons with health problems resulting from injury, disease, or overuse of muscles or tendons. Some physical therapists specialize in caring for children.
Physical therapists have an undergraduate degree in physical therapy, and many have a master's degree. In order to practice, all graduates must be licensed by their state by passing a national certification examination.
Physical therapists may practice in a variety of settings, including:
Physical therapy treatment and services focus on restoring the individual's mobility and function, cardiovascular endurance, muscle strength, and efficiency in the Activities of Daily Living (ADLs).
As related to arthritis and other rheumatic diseases, physical therapists provide comprehensive training that includes, but is not limited to, the following:
An occupational therapist often coordinates the following in the care for the individual with a debilitating condition, such as arthritis or other rheumatic disease:
Occupational therapists work in a variety of different settings, including:
Arthritis and rheumatic diseases can affect anyone, at any age, or of any race. However, certain diseases are more common in certain populations, including the following:
The cause of most types of rheumatic diseases remains unknown and, in many cases, varies depending on the type of rheumatic disease present. However, researchers believe that some or all of the following may play a role in the development or aggravation of one or more types of rheumatic diseases:
The following are the most common symptoms of pediatric arthritis and other rheumatic diseases. However, each child may experience symptoms differently, and different types of rheumatic diseases present different symptoms. In general, however, symptoms may include:
Symptoms of pediatric arthritis and other rheumatic diseases may resemble other medical conditions and problems. Always consult your child's doctor for a diagnosis.
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Online Resources of Pediatric Arthritis & Other Rheumatic Diseases