Rheumatologists diagnose and treat inflammatory diseases that affect muscles, joints and connective tissues. These complex conditions, which include juvenile rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, are called rheumatic diseases. Many other conditions may begin with bone and joint pain, and rheumatologists can help diagnose these and make sure your child gets the right care.

Seattle Children's has the only rheumatology program in the Pacific Northwest dedicated to children and teens, 17 and under. At Children's, a team of experts – including doctors, physical and occupational therapists, nurses and social workers – will see your child.

Conditions We Treat

We diagnose and treat many conditions that affect children's muscles, joints and related tissues, including:

  • Some children have pain, usually in their legs, that is bad enough to wake them up at night. These "growing pains" don't bother your child during the day, and often come on after your child has been very active. The joints of children with growing pains look normal, and the pain can be helped by massage and medicine, such as Tylenol and ibuprofen. Growing pains can be frightening for parents, but the condition does not cause lasting harm. Read more.

  • Arthritis causes swelling (inflammation) and pain in the joints. The most common form of arthritis in children is juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (JRA or JIA). Doctors don't know exactly what causes rheumatoid arthritis, but research suggests that it is an autoimmune disease. In these conditions, the immune system releases chemicals that can damage healthy tissues and cause pain, swelling and joint damage. Some forms affect other parts of the body, such as the eyes, heart and lungs. Read more.

  • The body's immune system usually defends against illness. But in lupus, the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy cells and tissues, damaging joints, skin, blood vessels and organs. There are many types of lupus, but most often the term refers to systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). SLE can be hard to diagnose. People with SLE don't have the exact same problems, and the symptoms may be like those of other conditions, including juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. Read more.

  • Dermatomyositis is swelling (inflammation), redness and pain in the muscles and skin. Your child may have a hard time moving, as well as a skin rash, often over the eyelids, knuckles, knees and elbows. Dermatomyositis occurs when your child's immune system, which usually protects against illness, attacks the body by mistake.

  • Many conditions can cause fever, including some connective tissue diseases. Fever of unknown origin is a fever that has no identifiable source and lasts longer than two weeks. Periodic fevers do not last as long, but come back at frequent, predictable times. Some children also have mouth sores or swollen joints along with fever.

  • Scleroderma syndromes are a group of diseases that cause thickening in connective tissues, including skin and other organs. There are two main types of scleroderma. Localized scleroderma affects only your child's skin, and often appears in patches or bands. Systemic scleroderma may affect the skin, blood vessels and internal organs. The most common symptom of scleroderma is shiny, hard skin. Doctors don't know exactly what causes these conditions, but they can treat scleroderma with medicine, exercise programs and other therapies.

  • Spondyloarthropathies are a group of inflammatory diseases of the joints and places where tendons attach to bones. They usually affect the lower part of your child's body, including the hips, knees and ankles. They also can affect the spine and pelvis. Often, the first sign of the condition is pain, swelling and redness (inflammation) in the ankle and foot. Read more. (PDF)

  • Behcet's disease causes swelling (inflammation) in the blood vessels. Its symptoms vary, but most often the disease causes sores in the mouth and genital areas. The disease also can cause swelling in the eyes and joints. Doctors aren't sure what causes Behcet's disease, although for some children, it may be passed from their parents (genetic).

  • Henoch–Schönlein purpura is a form of vasculitis, which is swelling (inflammation) in the blood vessels. Henoch–Schönlein purpura affects the smallest blood vessels in your child's skin. This causes a skin rash, swelling in the joints, bloody diarrhea and sometimes pain in the belly. Many cases go away on their own. If not, doctors may prescribe medicines to help control the disease.

  • Kawasaki disease is a group of signs and symptoms that usually affect children younger than 5 years old. Kawasaki disease attacks the lining of your child's mouth and breathing passages, their skin and their lymph nodes. The condition is a form of vasculitis, which is swelling (inflammation) in the blood vessels. If the symptoms are noticed early, children with the disease can fully recover within a few days. If it goes untreated, Kawasaki disease can lead to serious problems, sometimes involving the blood vessels in the heart. Read more. (PDF)

  • These conditions are caused by swelling (inflammation) of blood vessels. This swelling makes it hard for your child's blood vessels to carry blood and oxygen to organs and tissues. Most commonly, the conditions affect blood vessels in the skin, kidneys, brain and belly.

  • Psoriatic arthritis is a form of arthritis that develops along with the skin condition psoriasis. Like other forms of arthritis, it causes pain, swelling and stiffness in the joints. Most often, it affects the joints of the fingers, toes and spine. Some children have psoriasis that is easy to notice; some may have only changes in their nails. Doctors do not know what causes psoriatic arthritis, but they suspect it is more likely to happen if a close relative has psoriasis.

  • Rheumatic fever is a disease that can cause swelling (inflammation) in the heart, joints, skin and brain. It may develop after an infection with the Streptococcus bacteria, such as strep throat. If left untreated, rheumatic fever can cause serious damage, especially to the heart valves. Doctors treat the disease with anti-inflammatory medicine. To prevent further attacks, children who have had rheumatic fever may take antibiotic medicine for several years.

  • Wegener's granulomatosis is a form of vasculitis, which is swelling (inflammation) in the blood vessels. While the disease can affect any organ, it most often affects the sinuses, nose, airway, lungs and kidneys.

  • BHJS is pain in the limbs due to looseness in the joints (hypermobility). Looseness in the joints means that your child has a large range of motion or flexibility, which causes the joints to move beyond their normal position. Read more.

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