Allopathy For Treatment of Childhood Arthritis – Should You Consider It? by Dr. Sagar Bhattad

11 min read

Written by Dr. Sagar Bhattad

Dr. Sagar Bhattad

Dr Sagar Bhattad is a renowned Pediatric Immunologist and Rheumatologist in Bengaluru. He is the first DM in India in Pediatric Clinical Immunology and Rheumatology specialty.

He received hi More

Allopathy For Treatment Of Childhood Arthritis – Should You Consider It_

We are all familiar with the term “arthritis” and we know what impact it can have on a patient’s life. When the doctor diagnoses your child with arthritis, the first reaction is pure shock. You are unable to digest the fact that it can actually affect such small kids. When the doctor patiently explains about Juvenile arthritis, you come to understand childhood arthritis is not so rare after all.

As a parent, you now want a cure for your child. You are ready to try anything under the sun to help your child lead a normal life without all the pain and restrictions that are a part of arthritis. When it comes to medicines and treatment, your first biggest decision is – do you opt for Homeopathy or Allopathy? Should you consider the allopathy treatment for your child’s arthritis? Read the article to know more.

In This Article

What is Childhood Arthritis?

Arthritis in children is called childhood Arthritis. It is more commonly known as Juvenile Arthritis, and JIA (Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis) is the most common type of arthritis to affect children.

Juvenile arthritis affects the joints in children just as arthritis affects adults. The joint pains and aches make it difficult for the child to carry on with a regular childhood. They won’t be able to run around, play or do other physical activities like their peers. They may have to compromise on a lot of physical activities.

Arthritis in children can cause severe damage to the joints. Since it affects the child at a very young age and arthritis only gets worse with time, childhood arthritis can cause some permanent damages that can change the child’s life for good.

How is Childhood Arthritis Diagnosed?

Child with arthritis

Now, it is very common for young children to complain of pain on and off. Sometimes, we take them seriously and try to identify the source of pain; and sometimes we just assume the child hurt themselves while playing and ignore it. Many times, arthritis-related pain is not physically visible until it affects the child’s physical development.

If you notice your child’s physical development is delayed or if they seem to experience a lot of pain in their joints, it is better to consult your doctor immediately. The doctor will check the child and help diagnose the issue.

If you notice any of the following issues in your child, be sure to consult a doctor as soon as possible.

  • Stiffness in your child’s joints
  • Swelling
  • Joint pains and aches
  • Fever
  • Tiredness
  • Eye inflammation
  • Loss of appetite
  • Struggling to perform regular or daily activities like walking, running, or even playing

The doctor will conduct a detailed physical exam to check the joints and inflammation. After that, they will recommend a further set of tests to confirm the condition.

Tests For Diagnosing Childhood Arthritis

Tests For Diagnosing Arthritis in children
Usually, your paediatrician will recommend a Pediatric Rheumatologist, who will give the final diagnosis. The rheumatologist can ask for the following additional tests to confirm if the child in fact has Juvenile Arthritis. In Juvenile arthritis, an x-ray of limbs is not of much value and would be asked only in select cases. Lab tests will give a better picture. In Juvenile arthritis, an x-ray of limbs is not of much value and would be asked only in select cases.

1. C-Reactive Protein Test

The liver produces a substance called C-Reactive Protein (CRP) in response to inflammations. The CRP test will let the doctor know how much CRP is present in the blood and thus understand the level of inflammation.

2. Rheumatoid Factor Test

The immune system produces a protein called the rheumatoid factor, which can attack the healthy tissues in the body. This test will help the doctor know how much rheumatoid factor is present, and help a quick diagnosis.

3. Antinuclear Antibody Test

This is another auto-antibody that may damage tissues. Testing for this antibody may confirm the presence of arthritis in the child.

4. X-ray or MRI

Many conditions can cause joint aches and inflammations in children. An X-ray or MRI can help rule out other conditions with similar symptoms. However, X-ray or MRI is used very sparingly in the diagnosis of Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (JIA).

What Are the Treatment Options Available?

When the doctor confirms your child indeed has childhood arthritis, they will start the treatment as soon as possible. Arthritis is an inflammatory disease, which will only get worse with time if left untreated. It can cause severe pain and developmental issues in the child.

The treatment options are, however, limited. Since this disease has no permanent cure at the moment, the doctor will try to contain the disease and relieve the symptoms as far as possible. This is vital to make sure your child has a normal life and can perform all the activities of daily life. The use of steroids and non-steroid mediations are very common in treating JIA. The doctor will also prescribe medicines to help protect the bones from damage. In India, there are other treatment options from the traditional Indian school of thought.

Allopathy Treatment Options For Treatment of Arthritis in Children include

  • NSAIDs
  • Biologic Agents
  • Steroids

Homoeopathy, Ayurveda, Unani, Naturopathy, and Sidha are some of the traditional Indian medicine or therapy systems. Many Indian families continue to rely on these systems since they believe that they are much more effective and side-effect free. Each system has its own approach to identifying the root cause and treating it. While branches such as Ayurveda take the help of a blend of naturally occurring herbs, homoeopathy may rely on specially concocted medicines for this purpose.

Why Choose Allopathy For Treatment of Childhood Arthritis?

Allopathy treatment options for arthritis in children

While the alternate forms of medications such as homoeopathy, Unani, Ayurveda etc., are gaining attention for the treatment of childhood arthritis, allopathy is at any time a better choice for your child, as it follows the principles of evidence-based medicine. Yes, there is no permanent cure for childhood arthritis in allopathy, but there isn’t one in homoeopathy or Ayurveda or any other form of alternate therapy either.

In all fields, the approach to treating these chronic diseases has been evolving. Doctors today aim to treat the pain and other symptoms to reduce it to the maximum extent possible. They have come to the conclusion that reducing the pain and managing other symptoms can help the child lead a close to normal life.

As parents are desperate to find someone who can provide a cure, there are false claims that some form of medicine can cure this disease fully. What a full cure is seems to be subjective.

What Are the Benefits of Allopathy For Treatment of Childhood Arthritis?

When you opt for allopathy medications and treatment for your child’s arthritis, here are the benefits.

  • The medicines are tried, tested and in use for generations. Hence the outcome of its use is well documented.
  • There is enough research data to suggest what can go your way or what can go wrong with allopathy medicine for childhood arthritis.
  • You have both steroid and non-steroid medicines for different intensities of the disease. The doctor can use both as and when the need arises.
  • If an allopathy medicine does not work as expected, there is enough data to help your doctor prescribe an alternative or a milder dosage.
  • Allopathy medicines like corticosteroids work faster on inflammations and joint pains, thus giving your child relief in very little time.
  • While treating children with arthritis, time is a crucial factor. Any medicine that does not control the disease quickly is harmful, as uncontrolled arthritis will damage your child’s joints permanently. Hence we need medications that work quickly.
  • In case of emergencies or other health conditions that might trigger or be triggered by arthritis in your child, it is easier to treat your child in a hospital.
  • Even if you are traveling, finding your allopathy medications and doctors is easier.
  • Your child’s vaccinations and all other medications are all allopathy and maintaining the same course is always safer, especially in children.
  • In case of severe pain or as your child grows and requires physical therapy, it will be easier to find a good therapist anywhere, as most of them prescribe allopathy medications for extra support during therapy (pain killers, muscle relaxants, etc.).

What Types of Allopathy Medicine Are Available For Treatment of Childhood Arthritis?

Types of Allopathic Medicines for treatment of arthritis in children

There are many allopathic medications available to help a child suffering from childhood arthritis. Though none of them claims to cure the disease for good, many of them are a step in that direction. Since the exact cause of this disease is still unknown, finding a permanent cure is not feasible.

The drugs help in reducing the pain and relieving symptoms that could make movement difficult. By reducing the symptoms, these drugs can help a child live a better quality of life, very close to what other healthy children have.

Some of the most common types of medicines are

1. Non-Steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs

Also known as NSAIDs, can help relieve the pain and bring down the swelling to an extent. Arthritis can cause a lot of pain in a child, preventing them from doing their regular activities like running, playing, or even climbing. In such cases, to improve the quality of their lives and to reduce pain, the doctor will prescribe NSAIDs.

Some of the NSAIDs a doctor normally prescribes are – naproxen and indomethacin. The child can suffer from stomach upsets, and rarely have kidney or liver problems as a side effect of using these drugs continuously. Hence these medications are advised for a short period to provide immediate relief.


Disease-Modifying Antirheumatic Drugs like methotrexate can be used along with the NSAIDs for better effect. If the arthritis is severe and just NSAIDs are not sufficient to relieve the pain or to bring down the swelling, the doctors may prescribe DMARDs or use a combination of the two to help the child. These can effectively slow down the progress of JIA. These drugs are very effective in controlling arthritis. In most children, doctors would be able to stop these medications after a couple of years.

3. Biological Therapies

These are biological response modifiers – a new class of drugs that can reduce inflammations and prevent damage to joints. Biologic agents like etanercept, adalimumab, and infliximab can be given in combination with DMARDs for better results. These are usually preferred in children who do not show adequate response to DMARDs.

4. Steroids

Corticosteroids like prednisone can control childhood arthritis symptoms and reduce the pain until other medications take effect. These are strong medications and are not used on a regular basis. If the inflammation is restricted to a few joints, the doctor might give your child corticosteroid injections in the joint to bring down the inflammation.

Corticosteroids can interfere with a child’s growth and increase the risk of infections. Though the drug can have a better effect than most other drugs, it should not be used continuously. It needs to be discontinued as soon as symptoms improve.

[Read : Steroids in Children]

Side Effects of Allopathic Medication For Childhood Arthritis

Side Effects of Allopathic Medication For Childhood Arthritis

Allopathy medications are made from synthetic sources. While many are not OK with synthetic substances, these medicines have a track record of curing some of the most complicated diseases. Vaccinations are discovered with the help of allopathic medicines.

However, allopathy can have several side effects with continuous use. Initial reactions could be your body just trying to adjust, but if the medicines are continued, the child might suffer from some of the following side effects:

1. Increased Risk of Chicken Pox

The continuous use of steroids, methotrexate, or biological therapies can increase the severity of chickenpox, if infected. In case your child has not had chickenpox, you need to keep the doctor informed. They will vaccinate your child accordingly.

[Read : Chickenpox]

2. Gastrointestinal Issues

The use of NSAIDs can cause stomach upsets and other gastrointestinal disturbances. Your child may experience belching, acid reflux, burning sensation, or just irritation in the stomach and throat. The NSAIDs can irritate the stomach lining, causing these side effects. There is also a risk of gastrointestinal bleeding.

3. Impairment of Renal Function

Some children might experience impairment in their renal function, resulting in the retention of salt, an increase in blood pressure, and even Edema.

4. Cardiovascular Risk

An increase in blood pressure due to the allopathy drugs prescribed for childhood arthritis can have a severe impact on the vascular beds, leading to cardiovascular problems. This is a rare side effect and can be prevented by regular monitoring of blood pressure while on treatment.

5. Weight Gain

A common side effect of taking steroids is weight gain. If your child is on corticosteroids for long, it can disturb the growth and hormonal imbalance. As a result, your child might gain weight or look chubby around the face, neck, and cheeks.

6. High Sugar Levels

Steroids can increase your blood sugar levels. If your child is diabetic, inform your doctor. They can fix the dosage and period of medication accordingly. A healthy diet would reduce these side effects.

[Read : Diabetes In Children]

7. Osteoporosis

Steroids like prednisone can cause or accelerate osteoporosis.

8. Methotrexate Side Effects

Unlike in cancers (where high doses of methotrexate are used), the dose of methotrexate in the treatment of arthritis is small. This medication is usually prescribed once a week. There are situations where parents may inadvertently give children daily doses of this medication. This can result in bone marrow suppression causing falls in blood cells. . However, with careful and close monitoring, the doctor and parents can manage such side effects. Folic acid supplements can improve these side effects and even overcome them.

9. Liver Problems

If your child already has liver issues or hepatic dysfunction, the continuous use of methotrexate can lead to Hepatotoxicity. If liver enzymes increase, the doctor will stop the therapy and reduce the dosage of methotrexate.

How Have Allopathy Medications Changed The Lives of Children With Arthritis?

A few decades ago, there was no effective treatment for children with arthritis (JIA). Many of these children had cropping effects because of severe deformities in the limbs due to uncontrolled joint inflammation and damage. As a result of ongoing inflammation, a protein called amyloid can deposit in the kidneys resulting in kidney failure (amyloidosis). So, not only was the quality of life poor, but JIA also resulted in shortened life span for these poor children.

Thanks to the advances in medical science, we now have a series of medications (DMARDs, biologics, small molecules etc) that effectively control the disease. Not only has the treatment changed the quality of life, but doctors are also now able to stop all medications in a considerable proportion of children. Amyloidosis is rare these days and only seen in some unfortunate children who do not get timely allopathy treatment. While parents often get scared reading the list of side effects of medications, they must become aware of the serious consequences of untreated arthritis!

Childhood arthritis does not have a permanent cure yet. However, with the advancement of science and medicine, children are able to live a full life despite this chronic condition. With the help of the right allopathy medications at the right time, combined with the right physical therapy can help a child overcome the difficulties and limitations of this disease.

With understanding and support from the parents, the child can go ahead and live like any other child, thanks to advances in modern medicine.


1. Why is Aspirin Replaced as The Drug of Choice in JIA?

For a long time, aspirin was the first choice of drug in the case of JIA. However, doctors noticed an increase in hepatotoxicity and gastric toxicity in children who were on aspirin rather than other NSAID medicines. As safer NSAIDs were discovered, doctors replaced this medicine with newer ones (eg: naproxen) and aspirin is no longer the go-to choice of medication for arthritis.

2. Is Methotrexate Used For JIA?

Yes, methotrexate is used to treat JIA. In fact, this is the backbone of treatment for JIA. This is one of the most utilized medications and has been in usage for more than 30 years in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. Like any other drug, it comes with its side effects. Hence close monitoring (liver functions) and follow up with your doctor is essential while you use this medication. There is plenty of data on the efficacy of this drug in JIA, hence this is widely used in the treatment of JIA.

Read Also: How Important is Physiotherapy For Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis? by Dr. Sagar Bhattad

Dr. Sagar Bhattad, MBBS, MD Pediatrics
DM - Pediatric Clinical Immunology and Rheumatology, Aster CMI Hospital
7 years of experience

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