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    Is It Growing Pains or Something More Serious?

    Could It Be Arthritis?

    Yes -- it doesn’t just affect older people. It’s common for children to be told the pains in their legs are just growing pains, when they actually have juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA), says Richard Vehe, MD, director of the division of pediatric rheumatology at the University of Minnesota.

    The symptoms can come and go, and it’s a hard disease to pin down, because it’s so unpredictable.

    The biggest red flag: “Growing pains do not involve swelling or pain in the joint,” Vehe says.

    "Growing pains really shouldn't leave lasting signs,” Homme says. They shouldn’t affect your child’s movement or lower her strength.

    If it’s JIA, he says, her knee will swell and stay that way for a while. The disease can also cause fevers and rashes.

    The condition can have lasting effects if it goes untreated. The inflammation can cause changes in bone growth and lead to permanent problems. “Most of our current medicines can prevent or limit further damage, but they don’t reverse the damage that has been done,” Lehman says.

    Growing pains can also turn out to be bone tumors, both benign and malignant.

    “Severe bone pain at night can be associated with a form of benign tumor called an osteoid osteoma, but can also occur with serious bone tumors. That’s why children with persistent or severe pain should see a knowledgeable physician and not simply be dismissed as [having] growing pains,” Lehman says.

    No one knows your child better than you. If her symptoms seem out of the ordinary, call her doctor and share your concerns.

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    Reviewed on December 17, 2015

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