Juvenile arthritis is arthritis among children below the age of 16 years. Primarily the disease affects the joints. Pain, stiffness and swelling of joints are the main features. In many cases it can have broad spectrum of manifestations and this may include systemic as well as local. Some children may suffer from the symptoms for a short interval while in few, the disease persists lifelong.
In United States, juvenile arthritis is one of the common diseases among children. The disease occurs twice as often in girls as in boys, even in preschool ages. The cause for juvenile rheumatoid arthritis is not clear. A child suffering from it may have growth problems; inflammation of eyes is also one of its complications.
What Are The Causes Of Juvenile Arthritis?
The cause of arthritis is not clearly understood. But one thing is certain and that is, it is not a contagious disease as many people believe. It is thus classified as an autoimmune disease, where there is a hypersensitive response of immune system to one’s own body cells and tissues.
- Heredity: there is fairly high familial incidence of rheumatic disease. Although family clustering of arthritis occurs there is no emergence of any genetic pattern.
- Environment: The incidence of its flare up is higher in temperate climate and in spring months.
- Constitution: the disease is more common in girls than in boys.
- Stress: psychological factors such a stress may be linked to the onset and exacerbation of the symptoms.
- Foods, toxins, deficiency of vitamin or minerals do not have any role in development of juvenile arthritis.
Juvenile Arthritis Symptoms
Main symptoms present in any form of juvenile arthritis: Pain, swelling and stiffness of joints are present in any form of juvenile arthritis. They are the main presenting features of juvenile arthritis.
Types of juvenile arthritis:
Juvenile arthritis is classified in three different types; poly-articular juvenile arthritis, pauciarticular juvenile arthritis, and systemic juvenile arthritis.
- Poly-articular affects five or more joints. It is common in girls. Joints of both sides are affected. Most common joints to get affected are knees, wrist, shoulder, ankle and hip joints.
- Pauciarticular juvenile arthritis is slightly milder variety and affects less than four joints. It affects one side of the body. Knees, wrist and ankles are generally affected. Inflammation in the eyes is common feature in this type.
- Systemic JA is common in boys. There is high fever with chills. There is characteristic appearance of rash on chest, thigh and on back of the patient. Smaller joints such as finger joints, wrist joint, ankles and elbow joint are affected.
Treatment For Juvenile Arthritis
Since the disease can prolong for a long time in a child, the main aim of treatment is to make the child’s life comfortable.
Medications: non steroidal anti inflammatory drugs are generally prescribed. However they should not be continued for a long period as these medicines can have side effects such as liver and stomach problems. Doctors also prescribe corticosteroids and biologic response modifier drugs depending on the severity of the disease.
- Physical therapy: The child should be consulted to a physical therapist. He assists the child with active and passive exercises. It allows keeping the joint flexible and strengthening the muscles.
- Orthopedic care: wearing of splint will allow proper alignment of joint. This is usually done at night when the child goes to sleep.
- Eye care: regular eye check up is necessary to prevent loss of vision.
- Rest: since the child becomes tired easily, it is necessary to rest after a period of activity. However, he should not take complete bed rest which can lead to weakening of bones and muscles.
- Psychological care: keeping in view of long duration of disease, parents should be made to understand the necessity of fulfilling the child’s social, educational and psychological needs.
- Diet: the child should eat well. There is no specific diet in juvenile arthritis.