What is Juvenile Arthritis?

There is no clear indication for the occurrence of juvenile arthritis in your child. It could begin with a swollen knuckle, a spiking fever, or an unexplainable rash.

In this kind of arthritis, an inflammation of the joints is characterized by

  • swelling
  • heat
  • pain

The most prevalent form of juvenile arthritis is juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, or JRA. It affects approximately 50,000 children in the United States.

Causes for Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis

The medical community still is unsure about the causes for rheumatoid arthritis (also referred to as idiopathic arthritis) in children. However, research indicates that it is an autoimmune disease. In autoimmune diseases, white blood cells lose the ability to tell the difference between the body’s own healthy cells and harmful invaders like bacteria and viruses.

It is thus important to effectively manage and minimize the effects of arthritis, an early and accurate diagnosis is essential. There are several types of JRA. Understanding the symptoms and characteristics of each of them can help you help your child maintain an active, productive lifestyle.

Types of Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis

Typically juvenile rheumatoid arthritis appears between the ages of 6 months and 16 years. There are 3 major types of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis:

  • Polyarticular arthritis affects more girls than boys
  • Pauciarticular JRA affects 4 or fewer joints
  • Systemic JRA affects the whole body

Signs and Symptoms of Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis

The first signs of arthritis could be either be difficult to make out or could be obvious too. Signs may include

  • Limping or a sore wrist, finger, or knee
  • Joints may suddenly swell and remain enlarged
  • Stiffness in the neck, hips, or other joints can also occur
  • Rashes may suddenly appear and disappear, developing in 1 area and then another
  • High fevers that tend to spike in the evenings and suddenly disappear are characteristic of systemic juvenile rheumatoid arthritis
  • Walking pattern in Juvenile arthritis might be marked with awkward leg movements due to inward bending of knees.

Diagnosing Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis

Your child’s doctor may take X-rays or perform blood tests to exclude other conditions that can produce symptoms similar to those of JRA. In addition to X-rays, the doctor may perform some additional tests such as:

  • CBC (complete blood count) is a common blood test used to evaluate all the basic cellular components of blood, including red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets.
  • Blood culture is a blood test used to detect bacteria that cause infections in the bloodstream. A blood culture may be taken to rule out infections.
  • Bone marrow examination is a test that allows doctors to look at blood where it is being formed (in the bone marrow) to rule out conditions such as leukemia.
  • Erythrocyte sedimentation rate checks how rapidly red blood cells settle to the bottom of a test tube.

Treating Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis

In many cases, JRA may be treated with a combination of medication, physical therapy and exercise.