Considered a group of diseases related to autoimmune and inflammatory conditions or pediatric rheumatic diseases, juvenile arthritis affects nearly 300,000 children under the age of 16 in the United States. It’s characterized by inflammation of the synovium, a tissue that lines the inside of various joints.
Types of Juvenile Arthritis
There are several types of juvenile arthritis:
- • Juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA): This is the most common form, and includes six subtypes: oligoarthritis, polyarthritis, systemic, enthesitis-related, juvenile psoriatic arthritis or undifferentiated.
- • Juvenile dermatomyositis: An inflammatory disease that causes muscle weakness and a skin rash on eyelids and knuckles.
- • Juvenile lupus: An autoimmune disease that affects the joints, skin, kidneys, blood and other areas.
- • Juvenile scleroderma: A group of conditions that causes the skin to tighten and harden.
- • Kawasaki disease: A disease that causes blood vessel inflammation and can lead to heart issues.
- • Mixed connective tissue disease: Can include features of arthritis, lupus dermatomyositis and scleroderma.
- • Fibromyalgia: A chronic pain syndrome related to arthritis that can cause stiffness, aching, fatigue and disturbed sleep.
Causes of Juvenile Arthritis
There are no known causes for most forms of juvenile arthritis. Some research points to genetics, which may relate to other triggered factors.
Each of the different types of juvenile arthritis has its own signs and symptoms. For the most common case, JIA, symptoms can include:
- • Joint stiffness, pain, swelling and tenderness
- • Limping (children may seem to not be able to perform recently-learned motor skills)
- • Persistent fever
- • Rash
- • Weight loss
- • Fatigue
- • Irritability
- • Eye redness or eye pain
- • Blurred vision
Accurately diagnosing the presence of juvenile arthritis and its type is very important when creating a treatment plan. Most diagnosis processes include a physical exam and a review of medical history before considering certain diagnostic tests. Diagnosis is generally achieved by excluding other conditions that might have similar symptoms.
Treatment and Self Care
There is no cure for juvenile arthritis, but remission is possible with early diagnosis and aggressive treatment. Treatment goals are to relieve inflammation, control pain and improve quality of life for the child. Plans generally involve a combination of medication, physical activity, eye care and healthy eating. Medications that might be used include:
- • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): Used to treat pain and swelling, these are available either over-the-counter or via prescription.
- • Slow-acting anti-rheumatic drugs (SAARDs): Used to treat pain and swelling over a longer period of time, usually several weeks or more.
- • Corticosteroids: Often given before any other treatment as an injection to the affected joint, these are also used for pain and swelling.
- • Antimetabolites: An aggressive drug therapy that attempts to help reduce further joint damage and preserve joint function.
July is Juvenile Arthritis Awareness Month, and even though it’s coming to a close, it’s never too late to show your support for this harmful disease. Make a donation to the Arthritis National Research Foundation, and support with gear to help make a difference.
If your child is dealing with any signs or symptoms of juvenile arthritis, your doctor can recommend a treatment plan.
Our orthopedics practice has provided care for over 30 years. Our staff is trained handle a variety of issues, including sports medicine. We care for you and your family with the same state-of-the art techniques we use with BYU and Olympic athletes.
“Juvenile Arthritis.” Arthritis Foundation. http://www.arthritis.org/about-arthritis/types/juvenile-arthritis/
“Diagnosing Juvenile Arthritis.” WebMD. http://www.webmd.com/rheumatoid-arthritis/diagnosing-juvenile-arthritis#1
“July is Juvenile Arthritis Awareness Month.” Arthritis National Research Foundation. http://www.curearthritis.org/juvenile-arthritis-awareness-month/