Arthritic Children Face Fracture Risk

Juvenile arthritis patients have more spinal fractures

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) makes life painful for children and teens.  A recent study showed that many JIA patients commonly have spinal fractures and other broken bones.

A study of 50 patients with severe JIA indicated that 22 percent had experienced a spinal fracture. Additionally, 30 percent had broken other bones such as an arm and leg, according to the observational study published in the Journal of Rheumatology.

"Talk to a health professional if you experience joint pain."

Healthy children only occasionally break bones, and there is almost always an accident involved. However, The JIA group, aged 7 to 18, broke bones more frequently, for unknown reasons.

Researchers have  strong suspicions as to why these fractures occurred. The major suspects are glucocorticoids, commonly called "steroids." Almost all JIA patients must take them to help fight the disease.

These drugs are known to weaken bones if taken long-term in large doses. The JIA patients studied had taken them for an average of seven years.

Almost 26 percent of the group had "significantly compromised bone health," says Dr. Markula-Patjas, the study's main author and a researcher at the Paediatric Research Center, Tampere University Hospital, Tampere, Finland.

Obesity and severe JIA also commonly occurred in JIA patients who had broken bones.

Glucocorticosteroids are an almost unavoidable part of JIA treatment so "further studies are needed to establish optimal prevention and treatment guidelines," Dr. Markula-Patjas says.

Common sense prevention includes avoiding situations with an increased risk. For the 300,000 children with JIA in the U.S., everyday life apparently carries the risk of breaking a bone.

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Review Date: 
December 19, 2011
Last Updated:
December 23, 2011