These environmental influences are still unknown; the role of infections is only one of a number of possibilities being studied. For example, there’s no conclusive evidence, to date, that a pregnant woman’s nutrition or other habits during pregnancy contributes to a child’s arthritis, so delete that fear from your list of worries.

Applying Genetic Advances

This alphabet soup of genetic markers may become more relevant to your child’s life sooner than you might think. By identifying and better understanding the roles of specific genes and related markers, researchers will start applying that knowledge in a number

of ways. They may be able to more quickly isolate your child’s type of arthritis, which will help dictate treatment choices. At the same time, they may pick up genetic clues that help them predict the long-term course of her disease. Medication treatment also will one day benefit, thanks to an exciting technique called gene expression profiling, in which researchers can study genes that are turned on and turned off.

Researchers now believe that genes alone do not dictate your child’s response to a particular drug. There’s another crucial component: How do your genes turn on and off in response to that drug? By studying the response— or expression — of those genes to specific medications, researchers can learn more about which types of juvenile arthritis respond to which treatments.

Unlike clinical trials, which essentially use a trial-and-error approach to determine how and when drugs work best, genetic expression profiling could one day help your child’s doctor better tailor the medication regimen to her genetic strain of disease. Less time wasted in trying medications will reduce both cost and frustration.

Most importantly, it will cut short the time required to get your child’s inflammation under control. Hopefully, the result will be less daily discomfort and the derailing of some of the longer-term effects of the disease.

Adapted from Raising a Child with Arthritis. To order your copy, click here.