Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis
Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis
Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, also known as juvenile idiopathic arthritis, is the most common type of arthritis in children under the age of 16. Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis causes persistent joint pain, swelling and stiffness. Some children may experience symptoms for only a few months, while others have symptoms for the rest of their lives.
Some types of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis can cause serious complications, such as growth problems and eye inflammation. Treatment of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis focuses on controlling pain, improving function and preventing joint damage.
The most common signs and symptoms of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis are:
Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis can affect one joint or many. In some cases, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis affects the entire body — causing swollen lymph nodes, rashes and fever.
Like other forms of arthritis, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis is characterized by times when symptoms flare up and times when symptoms disappear.
When to see a doctor
Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis occurs when the body's immune system attacks its own cells and tissues. It's unknown why this happens, but both heredity and environment seem to play a role. Certain gene mutations may make a person more susceptible to environmental factors — such as viruses — that may trigger the disease.
In general, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis is more common in girls.
Several serious complications can result from juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. But keeping a careful watch on your child's condition and seeking appropriate medical attention can greatly reduce the risk of these complications:
Preparing for your appointment
If your pediatrician or family doctor suspects that your child has juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, he or she may refer you to a doctor who specializes in arthritis (rheumatologist) to confirm the diagnosis and explore treatment.
What you can do
What to expect from your doctor
Tests and diagnosis
Diagnosis of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis can be difficult because joint pain can be caused by many different types of problems. No single test can confirm a diagnosis, but tests can help rule out some other conditions that produce similar signs and symptoms.
In many children with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, no significant abnormality will be found in these blood tests.
X-rays may also be used from time to time after the diagnosis to monitor bone development and to detect joint damage.
Treatments and drugs
Treatment for juvenile rheumatoid arthritis focuses on helping your child maintain a normal level of physical and social activity. To accomplish this, doctors may use a combination of strategies to relieve pain and swelling, maintain full movement and strength, and prevent complications.
Lifestyle and home remedies
Caregivers can help children learn self-care techniques that help limit the effects of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. Techniques include:
Coping and support
Family members can play critical roles in helping a child cope with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. As a parent, you may want to try the following:
Last Updated: 2011-10-20
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