July is Juvenile Arthritis Awareness Month, an opportunity to raise awareness of the perplexing condition and promote the need for a cure. Juvenile idiopathic arthritis is a common autoimmune disease that affects more than 50,000 children in the United States. Idiopathic means “from unknown causes.”
Other forms of juvenile arthritis (JIA) include:
- Systemic onset JIA (Still’s disease)
- Oligoarticular JIA – this affects fewer than five joints
- Polyarticular JIA – affecting five or more joints
- Enthesitis-related arthritis
- Juvenile psoriatic arthritis
Symptoms and Signs
Just like arthritis in adults, JIA is caused by inflammation of the joints, where two or more bones are joined together. Juvenile arthritis is a rheumatic disease, meaning it causes issues with function due to inflamed structures of the body. Exercise is hugely beneficial for gaining a good range of motion in joints, reducing symptoms, and preventing permanent joint damage.
Arthritis can also make you feel tired, fatigued, feverish, and cause loss of appetite. When symptoms in children first appear, it’s not unusual for parents to write off the aches and fever as the flu. A doctor may need to perform a physical exam to diagnose juvenile idiopathic arthritis, as well as order lab/blood tests and x-rays.
JIA may make joints:
Juvenile idiopathic arthritis can also cause eye problems, like inflammation in the uvea, or uveitis. If uveitis goes untreated for too long, it can cause glaucoma, cataracts, permanent damage, and blindness.
JIA may make eyes:
Treatment and Medical Care
There is not a cure for JIA, but remission is possible with early diagnosis and aggressive treatment.
Treatment aims to stop inflammation, or slow it down to prevent progression, as well as relieve symptoms, preserve mobility, reduce joint damage, and avoid long-term effects. Doctors typically see success with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs), corticosteroids, and biologic agents. However, there are many adjustments someone living with JIA can make in their life to ease the intensity of symptoms.
Self-care that can help with JIA includes:
- Eating a healthy diet
- Topical creams
- Massage and acupuncture
- Physical therapy
- Managing stress and emotions
- Hot and cold treatments
- Finding support
A great place to find more resources for juvenile idiopathic arthritis is the Arthritis Foundation.
Come see us if your child experiences stiff, swollen, or painful joints for over a week. We are equipped to diagnose and treat any medical emergencies, injuries, or chronic conditions. Our doors are open 24/7, 365 days a year, and you can learn more by visiting our website here.
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