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Can osteoarthritis develop in children?

Fact Checked

Throughout the years, the common misconception is that osteoarthritis is solely linked to the aging process and only affects the elderly. Always bear in mind that osteoarthritis is not exclusive to the elderly group. Young individuals can also end up with the condition.

Is osteoarthritis linked with age?

It is sad to note that there are certain forms of arthritis that affect children, but primary osteoarthritis is not included. Children who develop arthritis usually have juvenile idiopathic arthritis, lupus, juvenile spondylitis or Kawasaki’s disease, but not the primary osteoarthritis.

Primary osteoarthritis does not involve an underlying or predisposing cause. There are certain congenital or bone anomalies that develop during growth that can increase the risk for developing osteoarthritis later in life though.

Osteoarthritis
Children who sustain stress fractures during activities linked with strenuous exercises such as gymnastics, ballet, soccer, diving, dance and cheerleading can fragment the epiphysis. This fragmented epiphysis can be linked with early osteoarthritis.

Always bear in mind that osteoarthritis is an age-related condition since the occurrence increases with age. The condition is common before 40 years old while most over 70 years old have diagnostic proof of the disease even if there are no symptoms present.

Triggers for early-onset osteoarthritis

Most of the issues that trigger premature or early osteoarthritis are mechanical in nature and usually involve the hip.

Once the signs and symptoms occur, they can be significant. As long as corrected before 6 years old, congenital hip dislocations are not linked with osteoarthritis. In another condition such as Legg-Calve-Perthes disease that affects children between 4-9 years old, it is characterized by the presence of dead bone in the hip which causes evident limping. Surgery is required in such cases to prevent the develop of osteoarthritis upon reach the early adult years.

Trauma is another cause for early-onset osteoarthritis. Children who sustain stress fractures during activities linked with strenuous exercises such as gymnastics, ballet, soccer, diving, dance and cheerleading can fragment the epiphysis. This fragmented epiphysis can be linked with early osteoarthritis.

Certain forms of genetic mutations have been associated to the condition. Cases in which there is poor production of Type II collagen can result to the development of osteoarthritis particularly during adolescence and involves the weight-bearing joints.

Unusual development of the bone growth plate can lead to deformed bones and early development of the disease. Those who are born with dwarfism, hip dislocation or hypermobility and Marfan’s syndrome are at risk.

What should I do?

The doctor will advise parents not to disregard the pain experienced by a child. Parents must pay close attention to the details particular in cases in which children might be too young to express the form of pain they are experiencing.

Any evident abnormalities must be discussed with the doctor so that further assessment can be carried out. Being aware of an issue, early diagnosis and prompt treatment can prevent a child from a lifetime of suffering due to osteoarthritis later in life.

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