Did you know more than 300,000 kids fight Juvenile Arthritis in the United States every year – a statistics that’s alarming and equally threatening!
Formerly known as juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, juvenile arthritis (JA) is one of the most common types of arthritis affecting children under the age of 16. JA is a broad term used to describe a number of autoimmune or inflammatory conditions in children that are associated with joint pain, muscle stiffness, and swelling.
While most juvenile arthritis share common signs and symptoms – including persistent joint pain, joint swelling, redness and warmth, some may affect the musculoskeletal system and involve damage to the eyes (eye inflammation), skin, muscle, and gastrointestinal tract.
Types of Juvenile Arthritis
JA can be broadly classified into three different categories, on the basis of the number and types of joints involved, symptoms, and duration. These include:
- Pauciarticular Juvenile Arthritis: This is most common type of juvenile arthritis and affects about 50% of children. Pauciarticular JA involves four or less than four joints. Typically large joints, such as the knees, ankles, or elbows are affected. While many children outgrow this type of arthritis, joint symptoms may come back in adulthood.
- Polyarticular Juvenile Arthritis: It affects nearly 30-40% of children, and involves five or more joints. Polyarticular JA is more serious as it tends to affect the small joints of hands and feet, and may involve joints on both sides of the body.
- Systemic Juvenile Arthritis: This is the most serious, but less common, type of JA that affects around 10-15% of children. Systemic JA is also called the Still’s disease and it affects one or more joints and causes inflammation of internal organs, including the heart, spleen, liver, and lymph nodes.
What Causes Juvenile Arthritis?
Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, like adult rheumatoid arthritis, is an autoimmune disease that occurs when your body’s immune system starts attacking its own healthy cells and tissues. This may happen either due to genetic or environmental factors like toxins, foods, allergies or more.
Signs and Symptoms
Each type of juvenile arthritis has its own set of signs and symptoms, which may appear in episodes or can be chronic and continuous. These include:
Swollen, stiff, and painful joints, especially in the morning
- Warmth and redness in a joints
- High fever and light pink rash
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Eye inflammation
- Fatigue and irritability
- Severe decrease in mobility
- Decreased use of one or more joints
- Loss of appetite and poor weight gain
- Slow growth or issues with bone development
Diagnosis of Juvenile Arthritis
The most important step in effectively treating juvenile arthritis is getting a timely and accurate diagnosis. You must get in touch with your pediatrician or a primary care physician if your child has stiff or swollen joints or is experiencing pain in joints for six weeks or more.
The diagnosis process can be long and detailed. Your pediatrician will first examine your child’s joints and muscles to check for signs of swelling, warmth, shrinkage, and decreased range of motion. He may further ask for several blood tests and X-rays to accurately diagnose the disease as well as rule out other conditions that might cause similar symptoms.
Treatment of Juvenile Arthritis
Unfortunately, JA has no cure. However, early diagnosis and timely treatment can help stop disease progression, relieve pain, and improve the overall quality of life. Most effective treatment plan for juvenile arthritis involve a combination of:
Basis your child’s condition and progression of disease, your practitioner may prescribe various non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) to reduce the symptoms and relieve pain.
Exercise helps in improving the muscle tone and increases joint flexibility and range of motion. Your board certified exercise physiologist will design a customized exercise program to improve your little one’s range of motion and quality of life. He will provide you a rigorous mix of exercises, like yoga, posture improvement exercises, swimming and more, to help increase mobility and flexibility.
An expert nutritionist can access your child’s nutrition needs to check if they are being effectively met. She can create a tailored meal plan to ensure adequate nutritional intake for your child. While doing so, a certified nutritionist will create a diet plan that is rich in vitamin D, folic acid, proteins, healthy oils, fiber, and foods that have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effect on the body like tomatoes, olive and fish oil, almonds, walnuts, green leafy vegetables, blueberries, strawberries, cherries and oranges.
Self-care for Juvenile Arthritis
An important aspect of treating juvenile arthritis is self care. You must teach your child:
- To religiously follow the treatment plan
- Take his/her medicines as prescribed by the care practitioner
- Indulge in regular physical activity to improve strength, stamina and mobility
- Improve his/her eating habits and make healthy food choices
- Stay healthy and happy, always
So, follow get in touch with an expert practitioner and follow our tips to help your kids live a happy and healthy life.
Also, remember that awareness is the key to treat juvenile arthritis in the most effective way. Raise awareness by helping us spread the word through your social media handles and help your loved ones find an effective cure for JA!