Juvenile Arthritis: Know Its Types, Causes & Treatments

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Arthritis is commonly associated with old age. When a young person complains of body aches, it is simply dismissed as a result of fatigue that is caused by youthful activities that usually require physical strain.

However, arthritis, which generally refers to joint inflammation, can also affect the young. In the United States alone, about a quarter of million children suffers from juvenile arthritis.

Juvenile arthritis refers to the chronic inflammation of joints in children under the age of 16. It is considered an autoimmune disease which means that it is a condition where a body attacks its own tissues and cells.

It has no known definitive causes but experts believe that the answer lies in the genetic make-up of a child. They believe that a child suffering from juvenile arthritis has genes that made him vulnerable to the disease and that something from the environment triggered the activation of the disease. However, this disease is not hereditary.

Juvenile arthritis is the term given to arthritis which affects younger generations, even children. Arthritis is obviously more common in older persons where wear and tear, injury and joint inflammation are clear factors in terms of cause.n This condition has its own specific set of symptoms and causes.

Juvenile arthritis, also known as juvenile chronic arthritis, childhood arthritis, and juvenile idiopathic arthritis, has five different subtypes, or classifications, depending on the symptoms found within the first six months of diagnosis.

These classifications are pauciarticular, polyarticular, systemic onset, spondyloarthropathy, and psoriatic juvenile arthritis. Juvenile arthritis was once referred to as juvenile rheumatoid arthritis but the ‘rheumatoid’ was dropped as part of the name because it leads people to believe this disease is similar to rheumatoid arthritis in adults, which it is very different from in terms of symptoms, the course of the disease and future outlook of the disease.

Juvenile arthritis has recently been termed ‘juvenile idiopathic arthritis’, because of there is currently no known active reason or cause for the condition. It has however been suggested that genetics and environmental factors may play a significant role in the appearance of this condition.

Juvenile arthritis is very unique in comparison with more common forms of adult arthritis, and forms which affects children until they reach adulthood. This condition has no obvious symptoms which a doctor can easily diagnose, further to this it may be quite difficult for the child suffering to communicate the pain they are feeling.

There are some basic signs which are evident in children suffering from juvenile arthritis: reduced interest in exercise, lethargy, decreased appetite, ‘limping’ movements, and swollen joints specifically in the wrist, hands, knee, ankle and feet.

Evident In Сhіldrеn Ѕuffеrіng

Juvenile Arthritis Has Been Classified Into 3 Categories: Oligoarticular, Polyarticular, And Systemic.

Oligoarticular only affects 4 or less joints, polyarticular affects 5 or more joints and usually involves smaller joints such as the neck and jaw, and finally, systemic affects joints that rely on internal organs to function.

This last type is specifically hard to diagnose, and the symptoms may come in the form of a rash which comes and goes. The only real means to diagnose which form your child has is via medical imaging in the form of an X-Ray or MRI.

What Are The Causes Of Juvеnіlе Arthritis

Juvenile Arthritis is an autoimmune disease where the body’s immune system attacks its own cells. The cause of the actual autoimmune reaction is unknown but according to Healthline.

The Following Can Predispose A Person To This Condition:

  • Bacteria or virus
  • Drugs
  • Chemical irritants
  • Environmental irritants
  • Genetics

What Are The Tуреѕ Оf Juvеnіlе Arthritis

  • Systemic Arthritis

    Systemic Arthritis
    This affects many or all body systems and is prevalent in both girls and boys. Since it affects multiple body systems, it hits internal organs like the heart, liver, spleen and lymph nodes but not the eyes. SA manifests in high fever and rashes on the trunk, arms, and legs.

  • Oligoarthritis
    Also known as uveitis, iridocyclitis or iritis, oligoarthritis affects less than 5 joints in the body (usually the knee, ankle, and wrist) in the first 6 months. This type of JIA affects the eye (hence, the name uveitis, iridocyclitis or iritis) and is more prevalent in girls.
  • Polyarthritis
    As its name suggests, it involves five or more joints in the first 6 months. Usual joints affected include the jaw and neck, as well as the hands and feet.
  • Psoriatic Arthritis
    This occurs in children with both arthritis and psoriasis.
  • Pauciarticular Juvenile Arthritis
    Pauciarticular juvenile arthritis affects less than four joints, usually the ankle, knee, elbow, or wrist and is the most common type of juvenile arthritis. This particular subtype affects around 45% of children diagnosed with juvenile arthritis, very few of which develop general, or body-wide, symptoms.
  • Enthesis Related Arthritis
    This affects the places where tendons attach to the bones. Also affects spine, hips, and eyes and usually occurs in boys above 8 years old.

What Are The Dіаgnоѕіs Of Juvеnіlе Arthritis

Dіаgnоѕіng Juvеnіlе Arthritis
If you do suspect that your child could have Juvenile Arthritis, it is important that you take them to your local physician in order to be sure. Once there, the physician will run a few tests just to determine what the problem actually is.

The main thing that the physician will look for is whether the pain could be caused by a systemic disease. It can often be hard to diagnose Juvenile Arthritis and so that is why so many tests are needed to be done.

Changes in lifestyle will be looked at such as whether there has been a dramatic change in activity and also things such as whether the child has become ill with a fever will be looked at too.

A physical examination will be given in the affected areas and around those affected areas, just to have a better idea of how bad the problem is. As well as a physical test, tests such as Radiography and a blood count test may also be done.

Generally, the amount of testing that is involved can be distressing for the child but it does need to be done just to be sure that the problem is Arthritis and nothing else.

What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Juvеnіlе Arthritis

Since there are many subtypes of JIA, the signs and symptoms vary from case to case. The following are the most common signs and symptoms of JIA, according to Arthritis Foundation:

  • Swelling And Tenderness At Joints – These are signs of inflammation. Vasodilation is the body’s way of trying to fight infection by pooling blood cells in an area. However, since this is an autoimmune disease, the body ends up affecting normal cells, too, making them swollen, tender and warm to touch. Inflammation in JIA may persist for several days or may come and go.
  • Fever – Fevers in JIA have a sudden onset and don’t occur in relation to any colds or flu.
  • Rash – Systemic JIA often manifests in rashes in the trunk and limbs.
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  • Pain And Stiffness – kids often complain about having painful joints and muscles after a day full of activities. Kids who suffer from JIA, however, feel pain and stiffness in their joints immediately after getting up from bed or after long periods of inactivity. This may also manifest in limping, or favoring one side of the body when doing activities.
  • Decreased Physical Activity And Fatigue – This is the result of pain and discomfort felt in the joints. Since most joints affected by JIA happen to be weight-bearing, the child’s activity decreases significantly. Because of the pain, the child exerts extra effort in doing simple everyday tasks, resulting in fatigue that could escalate into weight loss and eating problems.
  • Sleep Problems – Pain in JIA often occurs after or during a period of inactivity, like sleep.
  • Swollen Lymph Nodes – This indicates infection, or in this case, an autoimmune reaction.
  • Eye Problems – Oligoarthritis affects the iris

Treatment Of Juvenile Arthritis

Treatment Of Juvеnіlе Arthritis
Currently, there is no known cure for JIA. The goal of treatment is to stop the pain and inflammation and improve the child’s quality of life. This includes curbing the pain and discomfort through medication, therapy, and assistive devices.

Experts also believe that with early diagnosis, a child with JIA can experience remission and can lead a normal life despite having the condition.

Medications for JIA include both steroidal and non-steroidal meds meant to relieve pain and inflammation, along with medications to prevent permanent damage to the bones and cartilage.

Eye inflammation can also occur in children with oligoarthritis, even if the joint pain has been controlled. Regular check-ups to the ophthalmologist are recommended.

Surgical methods are rarely used to treat JIA, especially during the early stages of the condition. However, it may be used to correct bone and joint deformities if the child develops them later in their life.

Custom-made orthotics, crutches, and other assistive devices may help the child regain balance and correct deformities made by JIA.

Read More: Know Causes, Symptoms & Treatment Of Swollen Joints

Conclusion

Juvenile Arthritis is also called Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis, Juvenile Chronic Arthritis, and Childhood Arthritis. It is actually a collection of three different diseases that are arthritic in nature.

Arthritis can happen to adults and children alike. As a chronic condition, JIA has a big impact on the life of a child and their family members.

The pain can often times be debilitating. However, while it’s not easy to have JIA, many kids have proved that with proper treatment and care, this condition can be managed and they can lead normal lives.

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