Juvenile Arthritis: Your Health Care Team
Many different health care professionals may provide care for your child with arthritis.
By Susan Bernstein
If your child has juvenile arthritis, you probably sought a diagnosis from your family pediatrician. However, many different health care professionals will provide ongoing care for her as she ages, depending on her specific condition. Let’s get to know your child’s health care team:
Pediatrician: Physician with additional, specialized training in diagnosing, preventing or treating diseases in children and adolescents. Can include both medical doctors and doctors of osteopathy.
Pediatric rheumatologist: Physician who has additional, specialized training in diagnosing and treating rheumatic diseases in children or adolescents. Your pediatrician may initially diagnose your child’s juvenile arthritis, then refer her to a pediatric rheumatologist for ongoing care.
Nurse: Health care professional with a specialized degree in nursing (often a registered nurse) who assists or collaborates with physicians in either an office or hospital setting. Nurses may conduct an initial consultation, conduct tests like urinalysis or taking temperature, or administer injections or infusions, for example.
Nurse practitioner: Nurse with additional, graduate-level education in advanced nursing. Many nurse practitioners specialize in an area of medicine, such as rheumatology. Nurse practitioners may be primary-care providers, diagnose illnesses, and prescribe medications.
Physician assistant: Health care professional who is licensed to practice medicine under a physician’s supervision. Physician assistants may specialize in an area of medicine, such as rheumatology. Physician assistants may prescribe medications, assist in surgeries, and diagnose and treat many illnesses.
Physical therapist: Health care professional trained in using exercises to treat physical conditions like arthritis.
Occupational therapist: Health care professional trained in teaching patients adaptive techniques to reduce joint strain who may also design or prescribe splints or similar devices.
Psychologist: Health care professional with training in psychology who may provide counseling or therapy to children with JA. Some psychologists specialize only in treating children and teens, rather than adults, and may be called child psychologists.
Psychiatrist: Physician who has additional, specialized training in diagnosing and treating mental illnesses. A psychiatrist, unlike a psychologist, is licensed to order medical tests such as brain scans, or to prescribe drugs to treat mental conditions, including depression or anxiety.
Ophthalmologist: Physician with additional, specialized training in diagnosing, preventing and treating eye diseases. Children with JA need regular eye exams to detect signs of inflammatory eye conditions like uveitis.
Dermatologist: Physician with additional, specialized training in diagnosing, preventing and treating skin diseases. Children with JA may need to see a dermatologist if they develop rashes or painful skin conditions like psoriatic arthritis.
Dentist: Doctor with specialized training in the prevention and treatment of diseases of the oral cavity, including the teeth. Dental specialists may have even more training in treating jaw disease like temporomandibular joint disorder, a painful jaw condition that some kids with JA develop.
Orthopaedic surgeon: Physician with additional, specialized training in surgical treatment of the musculoskeletal system, including bones and joints.
Podiatrist: Physician with training in diagnosing, preventing and treating foot diseases or pain, including prescribing medicines and performing foot surgeries.
Social worker: Licensed professional who helps children and parents capitalize on their own resources or finding social services available to make life easier with juvenile arthritis.
Dietitian: Health care professional with specialized training in the use of diet and food to promote good health. Dietitians may guide children with JA in developing a healthy diet, or consult with parents if children are either overweight or underweight.
Other: Depending on how your child’s rheumatic disease affects her, other specialists on your child’s health care team may include physicians like nephrologists, who treat kidney diseases; gastroenterologists, who treat diseases of the digestive system; pulmonologists, who treat lung diseases, and many more.