Some 220,000 youths in the United States — children and adolescents younger than 18 — have been diagnosed with arthritis, a disease most commonly associated with older people, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The finding is based on analysis of 2017 to 2021 data from the Census Bureau’s National Survey of Children’s Health. Details came from the parents of 173,406 youths, with responses weighted to reflect a nationally representative sample.
The pain and stiffness of arthritis stems from inflammation (swelling and tenderness) in one or more joints. Although it can affect any joint, juvenile arthritis — as it is called in young people — most often affects the knees, hands and feet. Medical experts say this can result from the immune system mistakenly attacking tissue in the joints.
The exact cause of arthritis in young people is often undetermined. But the Arthritis Foundation says no evidence exists that foods, toxins, allergies or lack of vitamins cause juvenile arthritis.
The CDC report also found that the prevalence of arthritis among children and adolescents increased with age and that those with arthritis were more likely to also be overweight or have anxiety, depression or a heart condition than were youths who did not have arthritis. The report also noted that the “prevalence of arthritis among Black children and adolescents was twice that among those who were White.”
Treatment for juvenile arthritis may be twofold: medications to combat inflammation and treat stiffness and pain, along with physical therapy to improve movement, endurance and muscle strength.
In a similar report focusing on adults and based on data from 2019 to 2021, the CDC found that more than 21 percent of U.S. adults — about 53 million people, more women than men — have been diagnosed with some form of arthritis, with the toll rising to roughly half of those 65 and older with another chronic disease.
This article is part of The Post’s “Big Number” series, which takes a brief look at the statistical aspect of health issues. Additional information and relevant research are available through the hyperlinks.