Scurvy develops in babies when there is a deficiency in the diet of Vitamin C. this may occur if the child has been kept on artificial milk feeds for too long without being given orange juice or any other source of Vitamin C. as a result, there is a tendency for bleeding in and around the joints. This is very painful, but luckily the condition is usually quite apparent to a skilled paediatrician.
Rickets is another vitamin deficiency disease which causes trouble to joints. In this case it is due to a deficiency of Vitamin D, the sunshine vitamin. Such children tend to be stunted, their arms and legs grow ‘bent’ and their joints may feel painful. Curing rickets is usually straightforward but a few children may need enormous doses of Vitamin D as they are resistant to it. However, too much Vitamin D can also be bad and blood tests are needed to check that the right dose is being used.
Many bone diseases in children initially appear to be a form of rheumatism. The most serious is an infection of the bone – osteomyelitis. If the infection is located near to the joint the child will often complain of pain in the joint. It is usually very painful and causes the child to become generally ill and have a fever. Diagnosis can be difficult as X-rays do not show any changes until late in the disease. It may be necessary to prescribe antibiotic treatment without having any real evidence of the existence of the disease.
Leaukaemia in children sometimes presents itself as a form of ‘rheumatism’, this is because the bone marrow near to the joints may become involved and thus irritate the joints. The joint may swell and, of course, the bones nearby will become painful. Important medical advances have been made, marking it possible to prolong the lives of children who are affected by leukaemia and in relieving much of their suffering. Nevertheless it is still true that this is a fatal disease.