Juvenile Arthritis Awareness Month
We are all familiar with the many signs of aging, including arthritis. But did you know that kids can suffer from arthritis, too?
Nearly 300,000 kids in America have been diagnosed with Juvenile Arthritis (JA). JA is an broad term used to describe the many pediatric rheumatic diseases that can develop in children under the age of 16 when their body’s immune system attacks their joints, causing swelling, stiffness and permanent damage. This condition is extremely serious; if left untreated it can result in loss of mobility, blindness and even death.
No known cause has been found for most forms of juvenile arthritis. Some research points toward genetics and the combination of genes a child receives from his or her parents causing the onset of JA when triggered by other factors.
There are several types of JA:
- Juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) – Considered the most common form of arthritis.
- Juvenile dermatomyositis – Causes muscle weakness and a skin rash on the eyelids and knuckles.
- Juvenile lupus – Lupus can affect the joints, skin, kidneys, blood and other areas of the body.
- Juvenile scleroderma – Causes the skin to tighten and harden.
- Kawasaki disease – Causes blood-vessel inflammation that can lead to heart complications.
- Mixed connective tissue disease -May include features of arthritis, lupus dermatomyositis and scleroderma.
- Fibromyalgia – A chronic pain syndrome which can cause stiffness and aching, along with fatigue, disrupted sleep and other symptoms. More common in girls, fibromyalgia is seldom diagnosed before puberty.
The most important step in properly treating juvenile arthritis is getting an accurate diagnosis. The process can be long and detailed since there is no single blood test that confirms any type of JA. In children, the key to diagnosis is a careful physical exam, along with a thorough medical history. Any specific tests a doctor may perform will depend upon the type of JA suspected.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for juvenile arthritis, although with early diagnosis and aggressive treatment, remission is possible. The goal is to relieve inflammation, control pain and improve the child’s quality of life. Most treatment plans involve a combination of medication, physical activity, eye care and healthy eating.
If your child is experiencing any symptoms of JA, see your doctor immediately so your child can get the treatment he needs.