Rheumatology Specialists Help Kids Thrive

Adults and seniors are not the only ones who suffer with rheumatic diseases. Nearly 300,000 children in the United States are coping with arthritis and other rheumatic conditions that cause inflammation and other uncomfortable symptoms.

“The outlook for kids with rheumatic diseases has improved dramatically over the past decade,” says Elizabeth Brooks, MD, PhD, pediatric rheumatologist at University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital. “There are several effective medications available that help kids live more normal lives.”

The Division of Pediatric Rheumatology at UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital provides comprehensive care to children with rheumatic conditions to help manage symptoms, maximize functional abilities and prevent disability.

Complex, Chronic Conditions

Rheumatic diseases are a group of autoimmune, inflammatory and bone disorders that affect the musculoskeletal system — the joints, bones, muscles and tendons that help the body move. Arthritis is one type of rheumatic disease. The causes of these diseases are unknown.

The most common symptoms are inflammation, swelling, pain and redness in the joints. Some conditions cause inflammation in the connective tissue, organs or blood vessels. Children also may experience fevers, rashes, painful and swollen glands, fatigue and sleep problems. In severe cases, rheumatic diseases can lead to permanent joint and tissue damage.

“Some children have one episode and do not require intensive long-term treatment with medication,” Dr. Brooks says. “Others have frequent flare-ups and need ongoing medical attention throughout their lives. Patients’ symptoms may change over time, and some children may have multiple rheumatic conditions.”

A Team Approach

At UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital, a team of pediatric rheumatologists works together to evaluate, diagnose and treat children with rheumatic conditions. Diagnosis may include performing a physical exam, taking a complete medical history and ordering lab tests and x-rays.

Team members develop a comprehensive treatment plan for each patient that may include: one or more medications to control inflammation, pain and other symptoms; physical therapy; and counseling.

“Most kids who receive the right treatment do very well,” Dr. Brooks says. “They are able to participate in sports and other activities that their friends do.”

The UH Rainbow Difference

The staff at UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital can help children with rheumatic diseases throughout their lives. “One of our rheumatologists is board-certified in adult rheumatology,” Dr. Brooks says. “That means children can stay with the same rheumatologist when they reach adulthood or our doctors can help transition them to our adult rheumatology program at University Hospitals Case Medical Center.”

UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital makes it easy for children to access the care they need. Pediatric rheumatology services are available at the main campus in Cleveland, UH Landerbrook Health CenterUH Westlake Health Center and several other convenient locations.

brooks-elizabeth Elizabeth Brooks, MD Pediatric Rheumatologist
UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital
Assistant Professor, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine

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