Kristi's Kids

Apr 30, 2012 1:00 AM

Childhood arthritis impacts about 7000 in Arizona

TUCSON - When we hear the word arthritis most of us think of our parents or grandparents but kids get arthritis also: 300,000 kids nationwide with about 3,000 in the Tucson area are affected.

Problem is there are very few pediatric rheumatologists to treat them and kids are being misdiagnosed.

It happened to one of Kristi's Kids. Troy Terry is an active 14-year old who loves long boarding and golf.

One night, when he was 11, he woke up in terrible pain.

"I was stiff and I couldn't move and every time I tried to move it would really hurt."

Troy remembers pain in every joint. His mom took him to the emergency room.

"We were told it was growing pains because it was very similar. And that's when he hit a real growth spurt," Troy's mom Jeanette says.

But the pain and stiffness wouldn't go away. They saw several doctors who could not figure out the cause.

"We are on about three, at least three years trying to find out what was wrong."

Eventually the family pediatrician recommended a test for arthritis. Jeanette was confused. "Because I didn't think children can have it," she says.

Dr. Eric Gall is director of the University or Arizona Arthritis Center.

"Pediatric rheumatology is the most underserved specialty in primary care," he says.

Dr. Gall tells us that's why kids like Troy don't always get the right diagnosis.

"I have actually seen young children actually die, before the diagnosis is made. It's a very difficult diagnosis to make."

Dr. Gall explains that Stills disease, the most serious type of juvenile arthritis, is the nation's leading cause of childhood blindness.

"And this chronic inflammation leads to scarring and melting of the outside of the eye," says Dr. Gall referring to photographs in a medical textbook.

Other symptoms besides joint pain could include a high fever, sore throat with trouble swallowing and an enlarged abdomen.

It was just about 4 months ago when troy got the diagnosis; three years after his pain began.
He has to travel to Phoenix to see a pediatric rheumatologist and there are only three in the entire state.

Troy's mom is hoping that will change.

"I have no one to call that understands a child's body."

For more information click here for the Arizona Arthritis Center.

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