What Is Juvenile Arthritis?

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Juvenile Arthritis

Juvenile idiopathic arthritis, formerly known as juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, is the most common type of arthritis in children under the age of 16. Juvenile idiopathic arthritis can cause persistent joint pain, swelling, and stiffness. Some children may experience symptoms for only a few months, while others have symptoms for the rest of their lives. 

Some types of juvenile idiopathic arthritis can cause serious complications, such as growth problems, joint damage, and eye inflammation. Treatment focuses on controlling pain and inflammation, improving function, and preventing joint damage. 

The most common signs and symptoms of juvenile idiopathic arthritis are: 

Pain-While your child might not complain of joint pain, you may notice that he or she limps — especially first thing in the morning or after a nap. 

Swelling- Joint swelling is common but is often first noticed in larger joints such as the knee. 

Stiffness-You might notice that your child appears clumsier than usual, particularly in the morning or after naps. 

Fever, swollen lymph nodes, and rash- In some cases, high temperature, swollen lymph nodes, or a rash on the trunk may occur — which is usually worse in the evenings. 

Juvenile arthritis can affect one joint or many. There are several different subtypes of juvenile arthritis, but the main ones are systemic, oligo-articular, and poly-articular. Which type your child has depends on symptoms, the number of joints affected, and if fever and rashes are prominent features. Like other forms of arthritis, juvenile idiopathic arthritis is characterized by times when symptoms flare up and times when symptoms disappear. 

Juvenile idiopathic arthritis occurs when the body’s immune system attacks its cells and tissues. It’s not known why this happens, but both heredity and environment seem to play a role. Specific gene mutations may make a person more susceptible to environmental factors — such as viruses — that may trigger the disease. 

It’s sporadic to have two people in the same family with JA, but we do know that genetic factors are involved. This is to do with the genes that are passed down from your parents. JA is thought to be due to a combination of genetic factors and trigger factors from the environment, for example, the infections that your immune system has been in touch with. 

There’s no evidence that a specific infection causes JA. Still, an infection may trigger your immune system’s response that then carries on and affects your joints. 

Several serious complications can result from juvenile idiopathic arthritis. But keeping a careful watch on your child’s condition and seeking appropriate medical attention can significantly reduce the risk of these complications: 

Eye problems-Some forms can cause eye inflammation (uveitis). If this condition is left untreated, it may result in cataracts, glaucoma, and even blindness. Eye inflammation frequently occurs without symptoms, so children with this condition need to be examined regularly by an ophthalmologist. 

Growth problems-Juvenile idiopathic arthritis can interfere with your child’s growth and bone development. Some medications used for treatment, mainly corticosteroids, also can inhibit growth. 

Living with a chronic illness is challenging for anyone, but especially for children. It can be hard for kids to understand why they feel sick, have to take medications, and can’t always keep up with their friends and siblings. Parents can help their child navigate the challenges of life by providing support and understanding.  

Until Next Time, 

Team Doctor ASKY! 

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