Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis

What do you know about juvenile rheumatoid arthritis?

In children ages 16 and younger, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis causes the joints to become inflamed and stiff  — usually lasting for more than six weeks. JRA can affect any of the joints.

Surprisingly, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis affects more children than you may think. Statistically, around 50,000 children alone in the United States suffer from JRA.

Since JRA is a type of autoimmune disorder, a person’s body misidentifies its own cells as being a foreign invader. This sets off the immune system, which starts to attack the healthy cells and tissues of the body. The end result being inflammation. Joint pain, swelling, heat and redness accompany this disorder.

Why does juvenile rheumatoid arthritis affect children?

It is unknown why a child’s immune system is triggered to attack itself. Many researchers agree that it’s usually a two-part process. The first is a genetic predisposition towards developing JRA. The second are environmental factors, like viruses, triggering JRA’s onset.

Along with the joints, JRA may also affect the child’s eyes, lungs, and nervous system. Even symptoms such as fever and anemia can be caused by juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. Usually, these episodes or flareups can last for weeks and then recur. In many cases, symptoms experienced during recurrent attacks are often less intense than the initial attack.

How is JRA treated in children?

This type of arthritis in children is treated similarly as rheumatoid arthritis in adults. It is then found that exercise and physical therapy is very helpful in treating JRA. This of course, would be used in conjunction with JRA medications. What is most promising, is that children usually suffer no permanent damage from JRA, recovering fully in most cases.

There are three types of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis

This is based on how many joints are involved, the overall symptoms, as well as the presence of special proteins or antibodies in the blood stream. The relevance of the three types of JRA are that the types define the overall progress of the disease.

The three types of JRA are:

Pauciarticular involves four or fewer joints. Fortunately, this is the most common type. It affects knees and other large joints. Around 20% to 30% of those affected with this type of JRA, also develop eye disease.

Polyarticular affects five or greater joints. And the small joints are the most affected. This type is called symmetrical. What that means is that the same sides of the body are affected.

Systemic JRA involves joint swelling, a light pink rash, and in some cases, internal organs such as the liver, spleen, heart, as well as the lymph nodes. This type of JRA affects around 20% of children diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis.

If any of the above symptoms seem familiar in your child, contact your pediatrician immediately. Your M.D. can examine your child and determine if they suffer from juvenile rheumatoid arthritis.

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