Aches and pains are the part and parcel of childhood, after all kids run, play, fall and frequently hurt themselves. But if joints and muscle pains linger on for a longer period of time – six or more weeks in a row, it could be a sign of a long-lasting, debilitating health condition known as Juvenile Arthritis (JA) that needs immediate care and prompt medical attention.
A chronic health condition, juvenile arthritis usually begins with a swollen knuckle, a spiking fever, or a simple rash and goes on to affect larger joints of knees, ankles and wrist. It is the most common form of arthritis in children in the United States and affects more than 300,000 children under the age of 18 years.
The debilitating pain that comes with the disease takes a physical and emotional toll on children, restricting their motion and pushing them into depression or loneliness, making it difficult for them to play, have fun with friends, spend time with family, and enjoy their childhood to the fullest.
But what is juvenile arthritis? What are it’s signs and symptoms? Are there any ways to overcome the pains and health complications that it brings along? In this article, we’ll help you learn all about that and more. Come, let’s read together.
What is a Juvenile Arthritis?
Juvenile arthritis is an autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system starts attacking and damaging its own cells and tissues, causing inflammation and pain. While sometimes, JA is mild and does not lead to severe joint disease and deformities, in other cases JA leads to serious joint and tissue damage and causes problems with your child’s growth and bone development.
What Causes Juvenile Arthritis?
The exact causes of JA are still unknown, but the reasons for JA are mostly linked to your child’s genes and the damage caused to them by virus, bacteria or other external factors. Also, there is no evidence that foods, allergies, toxins, or vitamin deficiencies lead to the disease.
Types of Juvenile Arthritis
Juvenile arthritis is of many types. The most common types of JA include:
1. Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (JIA)
JIA appears both in children and teens and causes pain, swelling and stiffness in bones and joints. The most common forms of juvenile arthritis include systemic JIA, oligoarthritis, polyarthritis, enthesitis-related, juvenile psoriatic arthritis and undifferentiated.
2. Juvenile Myositis
It is an inflammatory disease that leads to muscle weakness and causes rash on the eyelids and knuckles.
3. Juvenile Lupus
It affects the joints, internal organs (heart, kidneys, lungs), skin, and other areas of the body.
4. Juvenile Scleroderma
Scleroderma JA is exhibited as a group of conditions that lead to the tightening and hardening of the skin.
Vasculitis causes inflammation of the blood-vessels and leads to severe heart complications. Its examples include Kawasaki disease and Henoch-Schonlein purpura (HCP) in children.
A chronic condition that usually affects girls, fibromyalgia leads to widespread muscular pain and stiffness, coupled with fatigue, disrupted sleep and more.
Symptoms of Juvenile Arthritis
JA affects each child differently. While in some, the symptoms improve or disappear over time. In others, the condition only worsens and the symptoms never go away.
Yet, the most common and widely exhibited symptoms of juvenile arthritis include:
- Painful joints: Especially in the morning.
- Joint swelling: JA causes the swelling of the lymph nodes, in the neck and other parts of the body.
- Inflamed joints: The joints are usually inflamed and warm to the touch.
- Muscles weakening: In JA, soft tissues around the joints begin to weaken.
- High fever: The child usually complains of fever that’s coupled with light pink rash that disappears quickly.
- Growth and development problems: The joints either grow too fast or too slowly. They may even grow unevenly or to one side. The overall growth of the child may also be affected.
- Eye problems: Children with JA are also prone to eye problems, which can even lead to complete eye damage.
Diagnosis & Treatment of Juvenile Arthritis
Muscular aches and pains in children should never be taken lightly, especially if they persist for more than two days. They could be a sign of an underlying health condition that requires immediate medical attention. So, if your child complains of a persistent joint or muscle pain, it is important to take him to a pediatrician for complete physical examination.
Only the doctor can expertly examine your child’s bones and joints to check for the signs of swelling, inflammation, warmth or decreased range of motion. He’ll also check the associated muscles to look for the signs of atrophy (shrinkage). Accordingly, he may prescribe certain laboratory tests and x-rays to understand the exact condition and rule out other signs of injuries or unusual bone development.
If JA is diagnosed, your doctor would generally take the medicinal route to reduce swelling, relieve pain and ensure full movement of affected joints. He may prescribe nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs), corticosteroids, and various biological agents to relieve the symptoms and slow or stop the progression of disease.
Apart from this, your pediatrician may also prescribe additional therapies, exercises, and dietary modifications to maintain muscle tone, prevent joint weakening and preserve and recover range of motion. He may also advise splints to reduce inflammation and prevent contractures.
At EPIC Health, we are committed toward the healthy growth and development of your child, right from infancy through adulthood. Through annual physicals, routine check-ups and preventive screenings, we ensure the absolute well-being of children. Our regular well visits and health screenings help us detect and treat all pediatric health complications early on, before they turn into a potential disease.
Our team of board certified pediatricians, world-class primary care physicians, expert exercise physiologists and qualified nutritionists provide prompt help, support and treatment options to improve the quality of life of children suffering from juvenile arthritis. Our physical fitness programs help children maintain the required range of motion and make it possible for them to participate in sports, school, and other social activities.
So, help your child live a pain-free life? Schedule an appointment at EPIC Health today and ensure their good health and absolute well-being.