Juvenile Arthritis of the Spine

When juvenile rheumatoid arthritis affects the spine, it is referred to as ankylosing spondylitis (AS), or juvenile ankylosing spondylitis (JAS). In patients with AS, the joints and discs in the spine become inflamed and painful, and new bone forms between the joints and vertebrae, fusing parts of the spine together and limiting motion.

While AS cannot be cured, the good news is that surgery is rarely needed, and most patients can lead normal and productive lives.

What is juvenile ankylosing spondylitis (JAS)?

Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) is a form of chronic inflammatory arthritis that affects the spine and the muscles, tendons, and ligaments in the back. When it occurs in children and adolescents, it is called juvenile ankylosing spondylitis (JAS). JAS tends to affect boys more than girls.

JAS causes inflammation in the spine and lower back, which can result in pain and stiffness. It can also cause bone growth to form between the vertebrae and other joints in the spine, which limits motion. The exact cause of JAS is unknown, but it is thought to have a genetic component.

What are the signs and symptoms of juvenile ankylosing spondylitis?

The symptoms of JAS can vary from child to child. Symptoms also tend to come and go over time. Common symptoms of JAS include:

  • Pain in the back, buttocks, and joints
  • Stiffness in the morning
  • Difficulty standing up straight
  • Trouble with taking a deep breath (this occurs when the joints between the ribs and spine are affected)
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Redness, pain, and light sensitivity in the eyes
  • Fever

Long-term complications of JAS can include joint damage, an abnormal forward curve of the spine (kyphosis), breathing problems due to the changes in the structure of the spine and chest, and heart, eye, or kidney problems.

The symptoms of JAS can also be caused by various other conditions, so it is important to consult with a qualified medical professional to get an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan. Our team can perform an examination and order tests to determine the cause of the symptoms.

What are the treatment options for juvenile ankylosing spondylitis?

JAS is a chronic condition that typically requires some sort of ongoing management. With that said, symptoms can come and go over time, and typically surgery is not needed.

Treatment options for JAS will vary depending on the patients symptoms and severity, but can include:

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to address pain and inflammation
  • A short-term course of oral steroids to reduce inflammation
  • Steroid injections into affected joints
  • Disease modifying antirheumatic medicines (DMARDS), like sulfasalazine and methotrexate, which suppress the immune system so it doesn’t attack the joints
  • Biologic medications such as infliximab, adalimumab, or etanercept, which target certain parts of the inflammatory process to control the disease activity
  • Exercise and physical therapy

Diet modifications, such as following an anti-inflammatory diet, may also be helpful.

Surgery is rarely needed, but corrective surgery may be recommended if a patient has JAS-related joint fusion that causes significant pain.

Juvenile Ankylosing Spondylitis Treatment in Austin, TX

In most cases, surgery is not needed for patients with juvenile ankylosing spondylitis, but there are several treatment options available to help manage this chronic condition. To learn more about our juvenile ankylosing spondylitis treatment options or schedule an appointment with one of our specialists, please call our office at (512) 347-7463.