Chances are, you’ve heard of arthritis, but most of us think of it as a disease that only affects older people. In reality, Juvenile Arthritis affects nearly 300,000 children in the United States as of 2017. Juvenile Arthritis (JA), also known as Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (JIA) is an unfortunate disease where there is inflammation in the tissue that lines the inside of the joints.
Juvenile Arthritis is an autoimmune disease, meaning that the antibodies used to attack foreign substances are now attacking the body.
The Symptoms of Juvenile Arthritis are:
- Joint stiffness (often in the morning)
- Pain, swelling and tenderness of the joints
- High fever
- Weight Loss
- Eye redness or pain
- Blurred vision
It is important to be aware of the symptoms of Juvenile Arthritis. However, keep in mind that symptoms may vary depending on the type and severity of arthritis. There are many different types of Juvenile Arthritis that can affect children.
The types of Juvenile Arthritis parents should be aware of include:
- Systemic: Systemic Arthritis (frequently called Still’s disease) can potentially affect the entire body including internal organs, liver, spleen and lymph nodes. With this type of arthritis, you should watch out for symptoms such as a high fever and a rash.
- Oligoarthritis: A more common name for Oligoarthritis is Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis (JRA) which affects less than five joints within the first six months of diagnoses. These joints include the knee, ankle, wrist and can even affect the eye, particularly the iris. JRA is more common in girls than boys. Fortunately for both genders, many children outgrow this disease by the time they reach adulthood.
- Polyarthritis: Polyarthritis, very similar to Oligoarthritis, can affect five or more joints in the body within the first six months of having the disease. However, it often affects the same joints on the same side of the body. This specifically upsets the joints in the jaw and neck, as well as the hands and feet.
- Enthesitis-related arthritis: Last but not least, this type of arthritis disturbs the spine, hips, eyes and entheses (the spots where the tendons attach to bones). Unlike the other forms of arthritis, this is thought to be due to a family history of arthritis of the back. Also unlike the others, it is much more common in boys, particularly above the age of 8.
Treatment for Juvenile Arthritis includes medication and exercise. The main goal of treatment is to reduce pain and swelling and to increase joint mobility. Again, some may call for more aggressive treatment depending on the type of arthritis.
The most common medications for JA include:
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs: Used to treat and relieve pain and swelling
- Slow-acting anti-rheumatic drugs: Also used to treat and relieve pain and swelling, but over time. It may take a few weeks to work.
- Antimetabolites: A more aggressive drug that is designed to help reduce further joint damage and preserve joint function.
We know that no parent wants to see their child in pain. If you believe your child has any form of Juvenile Arthritis, it is important to consult with your healthcare provider as soon as possible to discuss potential options and treatments.