Knuckle Knockout: Rebuilding arthritic fingers

August 1, 2011

It's often a crippling pain that can prevent mobility by the time children reach adulthood, causing them to be unable to move their knees, shoulders, and hands.

CAUSES: It is not known exactly what causes juvenile arthritis in children, but research has indicated that it is an autoimmune disease. In autoimmune diseases, white blood cells lose the ability to tell the difference between the body's own healthy cells and harmful invaders such as bacteria and viruses. This causes the immune system to release chemicals that can damage healthy tissues, causing inflammation and pain.

SPOTTING JUVENILE ARTHRITIS: In order to effectively manage and minimize the effects of arthritis, an early diagnosis is critical. By understanding the symptoms and characteristics of juvenile arthritis, children can maintain productive lifestyles. Early signs of arthritis can be subtle including limping or sore wrists, fingers, or knees.

Joints may suddenly become inflamed and remain enlarged. Stiffness in joints located in the neck and hips may also occur as well as the sudden appearance and disappearance of rashes on the body.

In many cases, juvenile arthritis can be treated with a combination of medicine, physical therapy, and exercise.

In specific situations, children may also require specific injections into the joints or surgery. The goals of treatment are to relieve pain and inflammation, slow down or prevent the destruction of joints, and restore use and functionality of joints.

ONE PATIENT'S STORY: Ginamarie Russo suffered from juvenile arthritis. At just 12 years old, she began feeling constant shooting pain in her wrist before it completely took over her hand, making it nonfunctional. Charles Melone, M.D., an orthopedic hand surgeon at the Beth Israel Medical Center in New York, replaced four of the knuckles in Ginamarie's right hand with silicone implants and realigned her tendons. This surgery, followed by five months of physical therapy, has allowed Ginamarie to regain function in her hand and go back to doing the things she loves.


Joanne H. Nicholas
Director, Public Affairs
Continuum Health Partners
(212) 523-7772

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