How does Arthritis affect Children?

Arthritis in children is also called Juvenile Arthritis. While the causes of most forms of juvenile arthritis are unknown, it is certainly not contagious nor is it a result of a reaction to foods and toxins, or allergies, but to some extent, it is a genetic disease. It sets in by the time the child is 15 years old. In the US, about 285,000 children suffer from a form of juvenile arthritis, of which the commonest is juvenile rheumatoid arthritis.

Types of Juvenile Arthritis and related conditions:

Since treatments vary for each type of arthritis, it is extremely important to know which form of arthritis your child suffers from. Besides, the benefits of early diagnosis can help prevent or slow down the damage to the joint.

Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis (JRA):

This is the commonest form of arthritis among children. Often, it is a mild condition that causes minor problems but can create complications in extreme cases.

If your child suffers from JRA, he will experience fatigue, joint stiffness after a spell of sleep or inactivity and weakness in muscles and other soft tissues. But since each child is affected by JRA differently, he may experience only some of these symptoms. The symptoms he experiences vary from day to day, and even throughout the day.

Types of JRA:

There are three types of JRA: Pauciarticular Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis, Polyarticular Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis and Systemic Onset Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis. Each of these arthritis types is different from each other in the way they begin.

Pauciarticular Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis:

This involves lesser than four joints in the beginning, and is usually seen in little girls. It manifests itself as a swollen knee or ankle that shows up without injury or reason. The child may walk oddly and experience

morning stiffness

This kind of JRA is usually treated with mild nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), which can cause inflammation in the eye leading to scarring and blindness. Children’s legs could also grow at different speeds with one leg growing longer than the other, forcing them to limp. This results in damage to the knee and hip, causing arthritis by the time she is an adult.

Polyarticular Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis:

Here, four or more joints are involved from the onset. Since there are a greater number of joints involved, this is a severe form of juvenile arthritis and tends to get worse with time. Children cannot do normal activities easily and must be treated aggressively. NSAIDS are given to these patients and sometimes a second line of treatment includes gold shots, sulfasalazine or methotrexate. Today, TNF-blockers are also given to children to bring down the inflammation.

Systemic Onset Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis:

This is the most worrisome of the three types of JRA. It begins with high fever and a rash. The fever goes away for a part of each day and is high once or twice a day. The child feels and looks sick and doesn’t like to be touched but feels better when the fever goes down.

Even as this happens, the arthritis sets in and can be very severe, over time, creating problems in the internal organs. Children suffering with this form of arthritis have a higher chance of having bad reactions to medication and must be monitored carefully.