The diagnosis of juvenile spondyloarthritis (JSpA) 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. It is important to note that even in the care of the most experienced rheumatologist, a diagnosis can involve extensive testing and time.
In order to make the diagnosis, the physician will commonly do a physical exam and evaluate your child’s history of symptoms as well as perform laboratory tests. Note that X-rays are not always useful in the diagnosis of JSpA in that the changes due to spondylitis normally seen in adults are rarely present in children. Moreover, the X-rays can be difficult to interpret in teenagers since the bones are growing along the joints.