Who Can Help?
Ideally, a team of health professionals is best suited to take care of teens with spondylitis. They can assist you in the evaluation and management of the disease.
Members of the team include:
- Pediatric rheumatologist - The pediatric rheumatologist is a physician with highly specialized training and experience in the care of young people with diseases like spondylitis. In the United States, most pediatric rheumatologists are found at university medical centers and medical schools.
- Nurse - In most medical centers the health care team includes a nurse with special experience in the care of young people with arthritis. The nurse generally has a central role in educating you, your family, and often your school about spondylitis.
- Physical therapist - The physical therapist will evaluate joint motion, strength, and posture. The therapist also has the responsibility to develop exercise programs to be carried out at home or with a local therapist. Most physical therapists also maintain contact with physical education teachers in the school system, so that the most appropriate program will be undertaken in school for you.
- Occupational Therapist - A major focus of the occupational therapist is to ensure that a young person can perform well physically in school and during daily activities. In addition, the occupational therapist can teach you and your family how to adapt to daily activities if you have severe spondylitis.
- Social Worker or Psychologist - The potential stress caused by spondylitis on you and your family should never be taken lightly. Some teens may perceive themselves as different from their peers even if their disease is not severe. It may be particularly upsetting if spondylitis limits your activities significantly. Therefore, you and your family should have ready access to psychological experts, such as psychologists and social workers, who have experience in the evaluation and care of chronically ill young people. Social workers are often a great source of information regarding IDEA - the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. (click here for more information).
- Nutritionist - Good nutrition is critically important for anyone with a chronic illness. Teens with spondylitis are at risk for becoming overweight because of decreased physical activity. Unfortunately, extra weight can also worsen the symptoms of the illness by producing more stress on affected joints.
- Other physicians - During the course of care of spondylitis, teens may require the services of a number of other physicians. This group might include the ophthalmologist, who would generally see you for acute eye pain and redness. The orthopedic surgeon might become involved to evaluate and treat a very severely affected joint, particularly the hip. Doctors who specialize in rehabilitative care can assist with reaching functional goals through prescribing more intensive fitness programs.