Juvenile Arthritis

What is Juvenile Arthritis?

There are over a hundred types of Arthritis and musculoskeletal conditions that are characterized by painful, stiff and swollen joints. Arthritis that occurs before the age of 16 is called Juvenile Arthritis. This term refers to the many different types of arthritis that can occur in children.

Juvenile Arthritis can occur at any age and can be a gradual progression starting with a few symptoms or can be a severe attack. Some cases are mild, having a minimal impact on the child’s life, whilst other cases can be more severe limiting mobility and daily activities. At this stage there is no cure for Juvenile Arthritis. The symptoms may resolve in some cases or decrease, and in other cases it may last into adulthood.

Signs and Symptoms

  • Some of the signs and symptoms include:
  • swelling, warmth, redness and tenderness in joints
  • stiffness- particularly after periods of inactivity e.g. early in the morning
  • reduced range of motion
  • limping due to stiff and sore hips, knees and ankles
  • weak muscles
  • joint damage in the form of eroded bone and cartilage
  • changes in the shape or growth of bone
  • fever and general feeling of being unwell
  • skin rashes
  • aneamia
  • vision problems

Diagnosis

Juvenile Arthritis can be difficult to diagnose,  with no single test available to confirm the condition. Usually a thorough medical history is required to rule out other causes. The affected joints are closely examined, with X ray, MRI,  blood tests, and analysis of joint fluid also being used to provide further information. The good news is an early diagnosis generally means a good outcome for the child.

Treatment

Regardless of the type of Juvenile Arthritis the treatment protocol is very similar. As the cause of Juvenile Arthritis is not fully understood and no cure has been developed, treatment focuses on reducing the symptoms, reducing damage to joints, and minimizing the impact it has on the child’s life.

There are a number of ways of managing Juvenile Arthritis which include:

  • medication- NSAIDs (non steroidal anti inflammatory drugs), analgesics for pain management.
  • exercise- to strengthen muscles, keep joints flexible.
  • healthy eating
  • pain management strategies
  • support

The treatment team may include doctors, nurses, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, dietitians, podiatrists, psychologists and social workers.

It is largely an individual approach with each child trying to find the combination of treatment modalities that works for them. Each child will have to find a balance between exercise and rest. Rest is required to relax the joints and keep energy levels up but you must ensure the child gets adequate exercise to keep their joints and muscles strong and flexible.