Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis

Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, sometimes referred to as juvenile idiopathic arthritis, is an autoimmune disorder that causes symptoms of arthritis in children. Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis affects the lining of the joints and commonly affects children under the age of 16, causing pain, stiffness and swelling in the joints. Symptoms of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis may come and go, and may last for a short time or for years. This condition may lead to growth problems and eye inflammation in some children.

Causes of Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis

Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease, which is caused by the body attacking its own healthy tissue. With juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, the immune system is attacking the lining or membrane of the joints. While the exact cause is unknown, research has shown that heredity and the environment may play a role in the development of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. Children with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis may be born with an inherited gene that makes them more susceptible to certain factors such as a virus, that may trigger the onset of the disease.

Symptoms of Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis

Children with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis often experience soreness, swelling and stiffness within their joints, which is often worse in the morning. Some children with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis may limp in the morning, because of stiffness in their knees after sleeping for a long period of time. Symptoms may affect just one joint or the entire body. Additional symptoms of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis may include:

  • Clumsiness
  • Painful joints
  • Fever
  • Skin rash
  • Swollen lymph nodes

Symptoms of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis may flare-up at certain times and may also disappear completely for periods of time.

Complications of Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis

In some cases, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis may cause eye inflammation and vision problems. Left untreated, it may lead to glaucoma, cataracts and blindness. Children with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis may also experience impaired bone development and growth, and bones and joints may grow unevenly.

Diagnosis of Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis

To diagnose juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, a review of all symptoms and a thorough physical examination are performed. Blood tests may be performed to test for the presence of certain antibodies and X-rays may help to rule out any other conditions and assess the level of joint damage.

Treatment of Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis

Treatment for juvenile rheumatoid arthritis focuses on managing pain, improving function and preventing joint damage. Common medications used to treat juvenile rheumatoid arthritis may include:

  • Corticosteroids
  • Anti-inflammatory medication
  • Immunosuppressants
  • Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs

Exercise and physical therapy may also be effective at keeping joints flexible. Although pain and discomfort may sometimes limit activity for children with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, exercise is key to reducing the symptoms of arthritis and maintaining function and range of motion of the joints. In rare and severe cases, surgery may be recommended to repair tendons or replace damaged joints.

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