Juvenile arthritis is any form of arthritis or a related condition to arthritis that develops in persons under 18 years of age. According to data collected throughout the years, approximately 290,000 children under 18 years of age are affected by what is classified as pediatric arthritis. This is in the United States alone. This means that the condition is very common and in the United States, it is in fact one of the most common childhood diseases.
Symptoms of Juvenile Arthritis
The most common symptoms of juvenile arthritis are pain, tenderness and stiffness of the joints resulting to a limited range of motion. Another common symptom is joint contracture which is a result of holding an affected joint in a flexed position for prolonged periods. In some cases, the bone or joint cartilage becomes damaged which leads to joint deformity and/or impairment of joint use. Altered growth of joints and bone can also occur which leads to a short stature. The symptom/s usually differs from one case to another depending on the severity of the condition and the affected areas.
Types of Juvenile Arthritis
There are many types of juvenile arthritis but the three most common are Polyarticular juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, Pauciarticular juvenile rheumatoid arthritis and systemic onset juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. Polyarticular juvenile rheumatoid arthritis usually affects at least five joints and is most common among girls. It usually affects the wrists, knees and ankles but can also affect weight-bearing joints like the neck, hips and shoulders.
Pauciarticular juvenile rheumatoid arthritis usually affects four or less joints typically affecting large joints. It often affects only one joint on a certain side of the body and may cause eye inflammation. Systemic onset juvenile rheumatoid arthritis affects both sexes equally. It can cause spiking fevers that can last up to a few months. It can also cause rashes on the chest, thighs and other parts of the body. It often affects small joints of the wrists, hands, knees and ankles.
How is Juvenile Arthritis Diagnosed?
There is no single test for the diagnosis of the condition. A diagnosis is based on a thorough medical history together with a careful medical examination by a specialist. Juvenile arthritis requires laboratory studies including urine and blood tests for diagnosis. Imaging studies like x-rays can also be used to check for signs of joint or organ involvement.
Management of Juvenile Arthritis
The management depends from case to case but usually depends on the specific type of juvenile arthritis and the affected areas. The primary goal of treatment include controlling inflammation, relieving pain, preventing joint/bone damage and keep functional abilities at the maximum level. Treatment plans can include physical activity, medication, occupational and/or physical therapy, eye care, proper nutrition and education.