Arthritis affects millions of people in the United States, including thousands of children. While it is primarily a joint condition, it can affect other parts of the body, such as the eyes. On September 9, the Arthritis Foundation sponsored a Juvenile Arthritis Family Day at Camp Dogwood in Sherrills Ford, NC. CEENTA pediatric ophthalmologist Erin Schotthoefer, MD, was one of the physicians who took part and helped educate attendees on the link between juvenile arthritis and an eye condition called uveitis.What is arthritis? Arthritis in children commonly presents with symptoms of joint swelling, pain, stiffness, and decreased range of motion. Juvenile idiopathic arthritis, the most common type of juvenile arthritis, is thought to occur when the immune system mistakenly targets the body’s tissues, causing inflammation in joints and potentially other areas of the body such as the eye. Twice a year for the last five years, the Arthritis Foundation has offered educational programs to families affected by juvenile arthritis. These events are for patients with juvenile arthritis and their families and are free of charge. They include fun activities for the children and also include an educational component for the parents. This year, the educational section had a panel of medical professionals including Erin Schotthoefer, MD, Thomas Griffin, MD, a pediatric rheumatologist at Levine Children’s Hospital, and Lisa Grant, DPT, an assistant professor of physical therapy at Wingate University.What is uveitis? One complication from arthritis that Dr. Schotthoefer discussed Saturday is an eye condition called uveitis. Uveitis refers to inflammation of the uveal tract of the eye – the iris, ciliary body and choroid. The uvea forms the middle layer of the eye between the retina and the sclera (white of the eye). Inflammation of this tissue is uveitis. Uveitis symptoms can include light sensitivity, blurred vision, and pain. However, in children with juvenile idiopathic arthritis, uveitis can be present even if there are no symptoms. Pediatric ophthalmologists examine patients with juvenile idiopathic arthritis with examinations every three, six, or 12 months to monitor for uveitis, depending on the child’s arthritis subtype, Dr. Schotthoefer said. The families in attendance – about 70 people total this year – are very active in their children’s health and care of their juvenile arthritis, Dr. Schotthoefer said. They asked great questions, such as what they could do to prevent juvenile arthritis-related eye complications and what they can do to make eye exams easier on children. “The discussion format was a great opportunity for parents of children affected with juvenile arthritis to ask questions of the panel and also of each other,” Dr. Schotthoefer said. “For families affected by these diseases, having other families with experiences just like they are having is great for counsel and comfort. I enjoyed the opportunity to talk about uveitis and look forward to participating in the future.” This blog is for informational purposes only. For specific medical questions, please consult your physician. If your child has juvenile arthritis and you would like to make an appointment with Dr. Schotthoefer or any of our pediatric ophthalmologists, call 704-295-3000.