Juvenile Arthritis Can Be a Big Problem For Little People

As children, we should be able to have fun and enjoy those peaceful times of our life. We should be free to enjoy everything that happens around us from learning about butterflies to doing our first solo bike ride to watching our fathers fix things in the garage. At that time in our lives, we don’t think of the future and are allowed to believe that everything will go on as it is today. Yes, we’ll get minor illnesses such as mumps, chicken pox, measles and coughs but we’ll get through it. Juvenile arthritis, on the other hand, is not so easy to overcome and can be very difficult for children to cope with.

Not Only Grandparents Suffer From Arthritis

Over time we assimilate knowledge of ailments and illnesses and most of us know that arthritis is an affliction that normally affects older people and makes bones and joints ache. What many of us don’t know however is that there are over 100 different types of arthritis and one of those is known as juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (JRA) – or juvenile arthritis. This disease is unlike many other types of arthritis as it affects children aged 16 and under. Diagnosed with this condition, children can experience swelling and stiffness for over six weeks. There are three known types of juvenile arthritis, and they are grouped by symptoms, which joints are affected and whether or not blood tests identify specific antibodies.

Half of all children with juvenile arthritis have what is known as Pauciarticular JRA. This affects a maximum of 4 joints. Girls under 8 years old are most prone to developing this type of JRA which normally affects larger joints such as knees or shoulders.

Additionally, roughly a third of all children who suffer from juvenile arthritis suffer from Polyarticular JRA. This tends to affect smaller joints such as in feet and hands. It is important to note here that this type of arthritis affects the identical joint on both sides of the child’s body.

Thirdly, as well as joint swelling, systemic JRA can cause minor skin irritation and fever. It can also involve internal organs which could include the heart, spleen and liver. Unfortunately, about 20% of children suffering from juvenile arthritis suffer from systemic JRA.

Care and Causes

Each of the three types of juvenile arthritis are autoimmune diseases. What this means is that the child’s body is confusing its own cells and tissues as a threat. This causes the body (or more specifically its immune system) to attack the healthy tissues and cells. It is believed that juvenile arthritis can develop due to both environmental and genetic factors.

There are several symptoms that show whether a child suffers from juvenile arthritis or not. They include:

  Constant swelling of the joints
· Continuous stiffness that usually worsens after sleeping
· Eye irritation
· Frequent pain
· Growth problems
· Heart and lung problems
· High fever and minor skin rash
· Limping during the morning
· Problems involving joints in the feet and hands, and knees
· Swelling of nymph nodes

After a successful diagnosis has been made, there are several ways in which juvenile arthritis can be treated. Physical therapy is the first, biologic agents such as etanercerpt, disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs, alternative and complimentary medicine, corticosteroids and non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin and ibuprofen.

As you can imagine, a disease such as juvenile arthritis is very difficult for a child to endure but it is uplifting to know that as diagnoses and treatments get better, the condition will also become more manageable for the child.

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