300,000 children and teens in the United States are affected by chronic juvenile arthritis (JA). July is Juvenile Arthritis Awareness Month, a campaign that raises awareness about juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) and other pediatric rheumatic diseases which include arthritis as a part of their diagnosis.
About 1 child in every 1,000 will develop some type of chronic juvenile arthritis. JA is a type of pediatric rheumatic disease impacting the joints which can affect children who are 16 years of age and younger, most commonly juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA).
There are six types of JIA, such as polyarticular JIA, oligoarticular JIA, systemic JIA, juvenile psoriatic arthritis (jPsA), enthesitis-related JIA and undifferentiated JIA. Some patients outgrow the condition, while others experience symptoms throughout their lives. Other pediatric rheumatic diseases which include JA as part of their diagnostic criteria include juvenile myositis, juvenile lupus, juvenile scleroderma and vasculitis
JA is an autoimmune disease. This means the body’s immune system, which is supposed to fight against foreign invaders like viruses and germs, instead releases inflammatory chemicals that attacks its own healthy cells and tissues. This often causes red or swollen joints that feel stiff, painful, tender and warm.
Those with JIA may experience fatigue, appetite and weight loss, fever and skin symptoms, including rashes. Signs that a patient with JIA has or is developing a different pediatric rheumatic disease may include diarrhea, bloating and shortness of breath. One type of secondary autoimmune disease that can be commonly seen with JIA is uveitis, and symptoms can include chronic eye inflammation, which can cause dryness, pain, redness, sensitivity to light and trouble seeing properly.
The cause of JA is unknown. It is currently believed to be caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors.
While JA cannot be cured, treatments can control symptoms, prevent joint damage, and maintain function. Treatment includes medications, including anti-inflammatories, steroids and disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs), which can reduce inflammation and offer pain relief. Biologic drugs, which are special types of disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs, may be recommended for patients who do not respond to anti-inflammatories.
Complementary treatments should include healthy eating habits, exercise and physical therapy, mental health therapy (i.e., cognitive behavioral therapy). Patients can also try acupuncture, massage and meditation.
Connecting with other children with arthritis through programs like the Arthritis Foundation’s JA events and iPeer2Peer can help with the stress of living with JA.
Early diagnosis and treatment result in the best outcomes. With care from a professional team like Dr. Carrasco and Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Shelby Brooks, Central Texas’ JA experts at Pediatric Rheumatology Consultants, most children with arthritis can live full, active lives.
To find out more about juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, call the medical team at Pediatric Rheumatology Consultants at (512) 494-4000 or book your appointment now.