Juvenile Arthritis (JA)

What is juvenile arthritis (JA)?

Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, aka juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA), is the most common type of arthritis affecting children under the age of 17. It causes chronic joint pain, decreased range of motion, swelling, and stiffness. In more severe cases it can cause problems such as eye inflammation or growth impairment. It may only cause symptoms for a few months or symptoms could be lifelong. Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that occurs because the body’s immune system attacks its own tissues. Children will often experience painful flare ups of symptoms periodically. Luckily, with proper detection and treatment it is possible for juvenile rheumatoid arthritis to go into remission. 
 
The different types of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis include:
 
  • Oligoarthritis affects fewer than five joints in the first 6 months that the child has the disease. 
  • Polyarthritis affects 5 or more joints in the first 6 months that the child has the disease. This type is the most similar to adult rheumatoid arthritis
  • Systemic arthritis can affect the entire body or multiple systems of the body. It can affect body organs and often causes a rash and high fever. 
  • Enthesitis-related arthritis usually affects the spine, hips, eyes, and places where the tendons attach to bones (entheses). 
  • Psoriatic arthritis occurs when children have arthritis and a skin condition called psoriasis. 
 
 
Risk factors
 
  • Gender: certain types of juvenile arthritis are more common in females
  • Genetics
  • Certain environmental factors such as viruses 
 
Diagnosis 
To diagnose juvenile arthritis, the doctor will likely perform a complete medical history and physical exam, paying close attention to one’s symptoms. There is no one specific test that can confirm a diagnosis of juvenile arthritis but tests may be done to rule out other causes for one’s symptoms. 
 
Some tests that may be done to diagnose juvenile arthritis include:
 
  • Imaging scans such as X-rays or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may be done to rule out other problems such as fractures, infection, tumors, and congenital defects. 
  • Blood tests:
  • C-reactive protein levels may be taken to look at the level of inflammation in the body
  • Erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) is also used to look at inflammation levels. ESR is how fast it takes red blood cells to settle at the bottom of the tube of blood. Elevation could mean inflammation. 
  • Rheumatoid factor is often found in the blood of children with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis 
  • Anti-nuclear antibodies are often found in the blood of people with autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis 
  • Cyclic citrullinated peptide (CCP) is another antibody that is often detected in the blood of children with rheumatoid arthritis. 
 
 
Treatment
Treatment of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis is aimed at managing symptoms and improving quality of life for children so that they can do a normal level of physical activity without difficulty. It can be extremely helpful to seek treatment from a pediatric rheumatology team that specializes in juvenile arthritis. 
 
Possible treatments for juvenile arthritis include:
 
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • Corticosteroids
  • Immunosuppressant drugs 
  • Tumor necrosis factor (TNF) blockers 
  • Disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs 
  • Physical/occupational therapy
  • Antimetabolites

 

 

# JUVENILE ARTHRITIS (JA) BY THE NUMBERS #
  • Approximately 300,000 children have juvenile arthritis in the U.S.
  • Approximately 1 in every 1,000 children develop some form of arthritis. 
  • Juvenile arthritis can affect children at any age but is rare within the first 6 months of life. 
 
about juvenile arthritis (JA)
 
 

Sources:
  • "Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis." Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 17 Oct. 2014. Web. 27 Oct. 2017.
  • “Juvenile Arthritis.” Arthritis Foundation, n.d. Web. 27 Oct. 2017. 
  • “Juvenile Arthritis.” American College of Rheumatology, Apr. 2017. Web. 27 Oct. 2017. 
  • “Juvenile Arthritis.” National Institutes of Health. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, 30 Jun. 2015. Web. 27 Oct. 2017. 
  • “Diagnosing Juvenile Arthritis.” WebMD, n.d. Web. 27 Oct. 2017. 

 

It is important for a parent to be aware of the symptoms of juvenile arthritis so that it can be detected in the child sooner than later. Juvenile arthritis can keep a child from participating in social activities. Family members should give the child the best care possible, consider joining a support group, encourage the child to exercise, and consider working with a therapist or social worker. Check out this infographic to learn more:
 
juvenile arthritis

 

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