What is Juvenile Arthritis?
Juvenile Arthritis or JA refers to a group of arthritic conditions that typically occur in children up to about 16 years of age. The arthritis involved in this group is considered inflammatory and auto-immune in nature. This simply means that inflammation to various parts of the body is the main manifestation of this medical condition. Inflammation may involve the joints, the skin, the gastrointestinal tract, and even the eyes. Juvenile Arthritis is sometimes referred to as “childhood arthritis” or “juvenile rheumatoid arthritis”.
Symptoms of Juvenile Arthritis may vary depending on the type of this medical condition. Most common symptoms involve inflammation around the joints causing stiffness in the muscles that surround them. And because there is inflammation, pain, swelling, and redness may also occur on the affected area. Some patients will also have misalignment in the joints secondary to bone erosion.
The most common type of JA is called Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis. This type of JA has no known cause and presents with symptoms similar to that of adult-onset rheumatoid arthritis. Juvenile Arthritis that involves four or fewer joints is called “oligoarthritis”. Affectation of five or more joints results to “polyarthritis”. When symptoms include fever, rashes, and inflammatory changes on the spleen and other internal organs, this type may point to “systemic juvenile arthritis”. Other less common types are juvenile lupus, arthritis involving the entheses or the area in where the tendon meets the bone, juvenile scleroderma, JA with psoriasis, and JA with dermatomyositis.
Treatment depends on the type of JA and the bones or joints affected. For pain and inflammation symptoms, usually NSAIDs or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are prescribed by doctors. It is also common for doctors to advice some patients to undergo physical therapy to ease joint symptoms and improve joint function and mobility. Some severe cases of JA may even require surgery.