Juvenile Arthritis: Types, Symptoms, Treatment

Overview

Juvenile arthritis (JA) is the most common type of arthritis in children under 16 years old. It may cause inflammation, pain and stiffness in one or more of the joints. It is not a disease itself but refers to a group of autoimmune and inflammatory conditions or pediatric rheumatic diseases.

In the United States, JA affects nearly 300,000 children, that is, about 1 child in every 1,000. The inflammation usually begins before patients reach the age of 16, and symptoms must last more than 6 weeks to be called chronic. Fortunately, most children with this condition can expect to live normal lives under proper treatment.


Types

There are about seven forms of JA. Although the various types share many common symptoms, like pain and joint swelling, each type of JA is distinct and has its own special concerns and symptoms. The seven types are:

  • Juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA).

JIA is the most common form of JA. It includes six subtypes: oligoarthritis, polyarthritis, systemic, enthesitis-related, juvenile psoriatic arthritis or undifferentiated.

  • Juvenile dermatomyositis.

This is an inflammatory disease that may cause muscle weakness and a skin rash on the eyelids and knuckles.

  • Juvenile lupus.

Lupus is an autoimmune disease. The most common form is systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). Lupus can affect the joints, skin, kidneys, blood and other areas of the body.

  • Juvenile scleroderma.

Scleroderma, literally meaning “hard skin,” refers to a group of conditions that cause the skin to tighten and harden.

  • Kawasaki disease.

It can cause inflammation in the blood vessels, leading to heart complications.

  • Mixed connective tissue disease.

This disorder may include signs and symptoms of arthritis, lupus dermatomyositis and scleroderma. It is associated with a very high level of an antinuclear antibody called anti-RNP.

  • Fibromyalgia.

This is an arthritis-related condition, which can cause stiffness and aching, along with fatigue, disrupted sleep and other symptoms.


Cause

The exact cause remains unknown for most types of JA. For the most common form, JIA, researches show that gene and environment seem to play a role. Some gene mutations may make a person at a higher risk to environmental factors — such as viruses — that may trigger the disease. Besides, JIA is slightly more common in girls than boys.


Symptoms

You should consider the possibility of JA if you find these signs and symptoms in your children:

  • Painful, swollen or stiff joints
  • Warmth in one or more joints
  • Fatigue
  • Recurrent fever
  • A limp without any injury
  • Skin rash in some cases
  • Difficulty with fine motor activities


Diagnosis

The most important step in properly treating juvenile arthritis is getting an accurate diagnosis. However, diagnosis for JA is relatively difficult because many other conditions can cause joint pain and swelling. No single test can confirm the diagnosis, so doctors should combine possible methods together.

Apart from a physical examination in which doctors asks you about your medical history and symptoms, methods include:

  • Blood tests, like erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR), c-reactive protein (CRP) to determine the degree of inflammation or check for anti-nuclear antibody and rheumatoid factors in the blood
  • X-rays or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans to exclude other conditions
  • Removing fluid from a joint to rule out joint infection
  • Bone marrow examination to rule out some rare conditions


Treatment

The treatment options of JA are aimed at controlling the symptoms, preventing joint damage and finally enabling patients to lead a normal and active life.

Medications used to treat JA include:

These drugs can interfere with normal growth and increase risks of infection, so they generally should be used for the shortest possible duration.

Physical therapy, involving regular exercise and proper protective equipment, is recommended to help keep joints flexible and maintain range of motion and muscle tone.

In very severe cases, surgery may be needed to improve the position of a joint.


Keyword: Juvenile arthritis (JA).

Related Posts:

Localized Scleroderma (Juvenile): Types, Symptoms, Treatment

Lupus: Symptoms, Treatment

What are the Symptoms of Juvenile Dermatomyositis?

Kawasaki Disease: Symptoms, Diagnosis & Treatment

What is Mixed Connective Tissue Disease?

Fibromyalgia: Symptoms, Treatment

* The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.