How is spondylitis diagnosed?

The diagnosis of spondylitis in teenagers can be difficult because the symptoms are sometimes episodic and unpredictable. However, it is important to get a correct diagnosis as soon as possible in order to begin treatment. This is the role of a pediatric rheumatologist - a physician with special training in diagnosing and treating arthritis in children and teens. It is important to note that even in the care of the most experienced doctor, a diagnosis can take time and a lot of tests.

In order to make the diagnosis, the doctor will commonly do a physical exam and evaluate your history of symptoms as well as perform laboratory tests. Note that X-rays are seldom useful in the diagnosis of spondylitis because the changes due to spondylitis normally seen in adults are rarely present in children and teens. Moreover, the X-rays can be difficult to interpret in teenagers since the bones are growing along the joints.

A clinical history of symptoms is also important. The doctor will ask detailed questions about local and generalized pain and stiffness, (particularly whether it occurs in the back), joint symptoms, heel pain, eye problems, and others. The physician will also ask about the family history of ankylosing spondylitis and related diseases since heredity does play a factor.

Other Indicators Helpful in Diagnosis

Sometimes, teenagers with spondylitis may encounter other problems such as Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis (inflammation of the intestine), uveitis or iritis (inflammation of the eye) or psoriasis (severe skin rash).

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