Every medical diagnosis comes with a little bit of heartbreak. Sometimes it’s minor — other times it’s massive. And, when it involves your child, you want to move heaven and earth to make things better. Such is the case with pediatric lupus. What are the symptoms? What caused it? How is it treated? And, what steps can you take to ensure your child has as normal a life as possible?
Overview of Pediatric Lupus
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) — or lupus — is a chronic autoimmune disorder that causes inflammation of the joints, blood, skin, and vital organs — such as the heart, kidneys, and brain. It can range from mild to severe, and it can alternate between flareups (when the symptoms emerge) and remission (when the symptoms subside or appear to go away completely). It’s common for a child with severe lupus to experience extensive damage to their kidneys — and many pediatric patients end up needing a kidney transplant.
Most of the pediatric cases are diagnosed between the ages of 12 and 14, a child diagnosed with lupus has a higher risk of mortality than adults diagnosed with the condition. This is especially the case if lupus ends up causing renal disease.
Causes of Pediatric Lupus
The causes of lupus could be genetic, hormonal, or environmental. However, while a family history could make a child be predisposed to lupus, it doesn’t mean they will eventually develop the disease.
As for environmental factors, some of the most common triggers for the condition include infections, UV rays, low vitamin D, secondhand smoke, and physical or emotional stress. In some cases, the cause of lupus is unknown.
Symptoms of Lupus in Children
Symptoms of lupus vary from one child to the next, and they can range from mild to severe. They can also appear more often in certain periods of a child’s life. These include:
Different types of rashes throughout the body — with raised rashes on the head, chest, arms, or back
A butterfly-shaped rash on the face
Stiff and swollen joints
Chest pain when taking deep breaths
Sensitivity to sunlight
Lack of energy
Swollen lymph nodes
Fluid around the heart and/or lungs
Skin lesions that appear or worsen with sun exposure (photosensitivity)
Fingers and toes that turn white or blue when exposed to cold or during stressful periods (Raynaud’s phenomenon)
Diagnosis and Treatment of Pediatric Lupus
If you suspect your child may have lupus, they will need to see a pediatric rheumatologist — the type of specialist who diagnoses and treats autoimmune disorders. The medical provider will review your child’s medical history, symptoms, and conduct blood and urine tests to look for specific antibodies. The rheumatologist will also conduct imaging testing to inspect your child’s organs, bones, and soft tissues.
While there is no cure for lupus, symptoms can be controlled. If the condition is mild, treatment may only require nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) to relieve joint pain. Other forms of treatment for more severe cases include medication to suppress the immune system, hydroxychloroquine to reduce the risk of organ damage, and corticosteroids to reduce inflammation.
The pediatrician will also provide instructions regarding eating a well-balanced diet, as well as obtaining adequate rest. Your child should be getting between eight to 10 hours each night — as well as taking naps throughout the day.
Contact Care Options for Kids for Home Health Care in Florida
It can be hard to balance your time between work, home, and caring for a child. That’s why our team of professionals at Care Options for Kids are here to help.
Our home care services offer support in the comfort of your home. We refer loving and competent nurses to provide customized care for families — from a few hours a day to around-the-clock supervision. Contact us directly to speak with a home health care professional or request a free in-home assessment. Together we can determine the best plan of action to keep your loved ones happy and healthy.