The condition of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, also known as JRA and juvenile idiopathic arthritis, has been diagnosed in at least 300,000 children in the U.S.1,2
There are several different types of this disease, and each one affects children in a different way. There are also medical complications that can occur in JRA patients and cause seemingly unrelated health issues. That’s why it’s important for parents to understand the early warning signs and treatment options available in case their children begin to exhibit symptoms or complain of unexplained pain.
This article will define and discuss juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, including its possible causes, symptoms, risk factors, and treatment options.
Causes of Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis
JRA is believed to be caused by a malfunctioning of the immune system; however, the exact cause of that malfunctioning is still unknown.1,3 A child’s immune system attacks its own healthy tissues, which leads to this condition. There is a genetic component to developing JRA as well.
Symptoms of Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis
Symptoms of JRA present themselves anytime up until the age of 16 in children.3,4 It is common for children with JRA to feel similar symptoms as adults who have rheumatoid arthritis. These symptoms include joint pain that persists, as well as joints that are red, swollen, and warm. It is also possible for a child with JRA to experience fevers, stiffness, rashes or limping
Types of Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis
If a child’s JRA symptoms last for longer than six weeks, the condition is said to be chronic.2,3 Oligoarticular JRA is a form of the disease that affects no more than five joints that are small, such as the joints of the wrists. This is a very common form or JRA and can linger on into adulthood with continuing symptoms.
Another type of JRA is called polyarticular JRA because it affects more than five joints, including larger joints and joints spread throughout the body. Swollen lymph nodes and spleens are also possible with this form of the disease.
A third variation of JRA is called systemic onset JRA, which is the least common of the three. It is marked by fevers and persistent skin rashes; however, the actual joint swelling may not present itself for several years. Pediatricians take a close look at blood tests to consider elevated white blood cells and the possibility of anemia when diagnosing this condition.
Caring for a Child with Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis
It can be very concerning to have a child with JRA and a challenge for the entire family. One of the major concerns with JRA is stunted growth in children.5 It is common for children with this condition to be shorter in height than their peers, and in rare cases, organ damage may result from prolonged inflammation. Eye problems, including eye pain, light sensitivity, and reduced vision, may also be a complication of JRA.
It is very important to treat JRA early to prevent long-term joint damage that could affect a child for the rest of his or her life. Parents should talk to a pediatrician before using over-the-counter medications like JointFlex on children under 12 years of age. While some children diagnosed with JRA feel symptoms for the rest of their lives, it is also possible for the condition to fade after just a few months.6
REFERENCES FOR JUVENILE RHEUMATOID ARTHRITIS
1. Juvenile arthritis. American College of Rheumatology. Retrieved November 10, 2018 from https://www.rheumatology.org/I-Am-A/Patient-Caregiver/Diseases-Conditions/Juvenile-Arthritis.
2. What is juvenile idiopathic arthritis? Arthritis Foundation. Retrieved November 10, 2018 from https://www.arthritis.org/about-arthritis/types/juvenile-idiopathic-arthritis-jia/what-is-juvenile-idiopathic-arthritis.php.
3. Mehta, J. & Pessler, F. (2018 April). Juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA). The Merck Manual: Consumer Version. Retrieved November 10, 2018 from https://www.merckmanuals.com/home/children-s-health-issues/juvenile-idiopathic-arthritis-jia/juvenile-idiopathic-arthritis-jia.
4. Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. Stanford Children’s Health. Retrieved November 10, 2018 from https://www.stanfordchildrens.org/en/topic/default?id=juvenile-rheumatoid-arthritis-90-P01722.
5. Complications of juvenile idiopathic arthritis. AboutKidsHealth. Retrieved November 10, 2018 from https://www.aboutkidshealth.ca/Article?contentid=1056&language=English.
6. Gower, T. All grown up: Juvenile idiopathic arthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Arthritis Foundation. Retrieved November 10, 2018 from http://www.kidsgetarthritistoo.org/living-with-ja/daily-life/transition/juvenile-arthritis-transition-to-rheumatoid-arthritis.php.
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