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Other Rheumatologic Diseases

Raynaud's phenomenon. Scleroderma. Fibromyalgia. If you're like most of us, you never heard of these disorders until your child was diagnosed. Now you need to learn as much as you can. Fast.

Fast facts about rheumatologic disease

Rheumatologic disease…

…affects one million American children each year.

…is an autoimmune disorder that causes your child's immune system to attack its own cells. This leads to  inflammation in joints, skin, organs and other body systems.

…is made up of many disorders. The term describes at least 100 illnesses that involve inflammation.

…has a variety of symptoms, including joint swelling, pain and stiffness, a limp or funny walk, rashes, fever, intestinal pain, trouble urinating, headache, depression, mood swings, sensitivity to light, vision problems or other complaints.

…is safely outgrown by most children, thanks to new biologic therapies and specialized medical care.

Four common childhood rheumatologic diseases

Lupus and juvenile rheumatoid arthritis are the most common rheumatologic diseases. More than 500,000 American children annually, however, develop other rheumatologic disorders, including:

Raynaud's phenomenon (pronounced ray-NOES fen-NOM-en-on). This condition affects four times as many girls as boys: Almost one in every 20 teenage girls has Raynaud's phenomenon. The disorder causes blood vessels to constrict and hands to become cold. As they chill, hands change color, going from white to blue to red. Doctors separate the disorder into two forms: Primary Raynaud's phenomenon involves chilled hands. Secondary Raynaud's phenomenon has the same symptoms but indicates underlying autoimmune disease such as scleroderma or mixed connective tissue disease.

Scleroderma (pronounced SKLAIR-oh-DURM-a-is a rare disease). Only about 5,000 American children have scleroderma–two-thirds of them girls. The disease is an umbrella term for a number of disorders that cause hardening (sclero) of the skin (derma) or connective tissue. Doctors divide the disease into two forms: Localized scleroderma causes tightening and discoloration of the skin on the hands, arms and legs as well as stiff contracted joints. Systemic scleroderma is a rarer form of the disease. In addition to affecting skin, systemic scleroderma causes joint pain, stomachache, digestive problems, weakness, fatigue and symptoms of Raynaud's phenomenon.

Fibromyalgia (pronounced fie-BRO-my-AL-ja). Children with fibromyalgia have a variety of symptoms, including severe joint and bone pain throughout the body, extreme fatigue, disturbed sleep, headache, sore throat, swollen lymph nodes, diarrhea and abdominal pain. Doctors aren't sure what causes fibromyalgia. It may be linked to abnormalities in the brain's nerve messaging system.

Henoch-Schonlein purpura (HSP) (pronounced HEN-eck SHOWN-line PURR-purr-ah) is the most common form of childhood vasculitis—inflamed blood vessels. The illness is marked by a dramatic bruise-like rash. With HSP, your child may also have achy joints, stomachache, vomiting and fever. Henoch-Schonlein purpura usually runs a harmless course. About 10 percent of children with HSP, however, have serious kidney complications. Another 2-5 percent of children with HSP will have intestinal problems.

What you can do to help your child with rheumatologic disease

  • Seek expert care now. Complicated rheumatologic disease requires careful evaluation and thoughtful, customized treatment from very experienced doctors. Appropriate, aggressive treatment can halt—or even prevent—progression of many rheumatologic diseases.
  • See a pediatric rheumatologist, if possible. These experts are trained in both childhood medicine and rheumatology–the study of joints and autoimmune disease.
  • Choose a facility with multidisciplinary care and ongoing rheumatologic research. Access to children's medical specialists and new rheumatologic therapies gives your child a huge advantage.
  • Learn more about rheumatologic disease. Information on a variety of rheumatologic disorders is available at the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS).

Looking for superb rheumatologic care near your home?

The Rheumatology Department at The Children's Hospital at Montefiore (CHAM) is located in the north Bronx, minutes away from suburban New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. We offer children with rheumatologic disease:

  • Care from the nation's most experienced pediatric rheumatologists
  • State-of-the-art facilities with under-one-roof treatment from over 100 different specialists
  • Access to the latest clinical trials
  • Support services for families

Get the help you need for your child. Call CHAM today.

To learn more about our rheumatologic services or to make an appointment with one of our pediatric rheumatologists, call us at 718-741-2456. Please call today—we look forward to hearing about your child.