Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis / Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis
The most common form of arthritis in children is juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, also known as juvenile idiopathic arthritis. It is an autoimmune disease affecting children who are 16 years of age and younger, often causing painful swelling, inflammation, and stiffness in the joints. Some children may grow out of it. For others, symptoms can last a lifetime.
Juvenile arthritis affects more than 300,000 children in the United States, and there are several different forms of it, including psoriatic arthritis.
Causes & Symptoms
The exact cause of juvenile arthritis is unknown. It is sometimes attributed to genetics if it runs in a child’s family, or it may result from other triggers, such as a serious virus or infection.
Because it is an autoimmune disease, the body’s immune system attacks its own healthy cells and tissues, leading to a variety of symptoms that can be different for each child.
The one common symptom of juvenile arthritis is painful, swollen joints. Other symptoms might include:
- Decreased flexibility and mobility
- Weight loss or loss of appetite
- Recurring fever
- Eye inflammation
For a child to be diagnosed with juvenile arthritis, they must experience continuous joint pain and inflammation for at least 6 weeks. Other evaluations that may be recommended are:
- Blood tests for certain antibodies and proteins
- Lyme disease test because symptoms, including joint pain and stiffness, are very similar
- Joint fluid analysis (via a thin needle inserted into the joint to extract fluid for testing)
- X-rays to show damage to joints and bones
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to assess internal inflammation
Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis Treatment in Austin & Cedar Park, TX
There are many treatments available to help lessen symptoms of juvenile arthritis. Regular exercise and physical therapy can help maintain healthy, flexible joints, which can be highly beneficial for patients with rheumatoid arthritis. Medications such as anti-inflammatories and steroids can reduce inflammation and offer pain relief.
For children who do not respond to anti-inflammatories, “biologic drugs” may be recommended. These are genetically engineered medicine, many of which have been tested to be safe for children. Some of these medicines can be administered in our outpatient pediatric infusion center.