Juvenile Arthritis: What Parents Need To Know

“Invisible” Disease – Juvenile Arthritis (JA)

Juvenile Arthritis (JA) is not a disease in itself. Also known as pediatric rheumatic disease, JA is an umbrella term used to describe the many auto immune and inflammatory conditions or pediatric rheumatic diseases that can develop in children under the age of 16. It is invisible because the challenging good-and-bad part of having JA is that it doesn’t always show.

Types of Juvenile Arthritis:

  1. Juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA): Considered the most common form of arthritis, JIA includes six subtypes: oligoarthritis, polyarthritis, systemic, enthesitis-related, juvenile psoriatic arthritis or undifferentiated.
  2. Juvenile dermatomyositis: An inflammatory disease, juvenile dermatomyositis causes muscle weakness and a skin rash on the eyelids and knuckles.
  3. Juvenile lupus: Lupus is an auto immune disease. The most common form is systemic lupus erythematosus, or SLE. Lupus can affect the joints, skin, kidneys, blood and other areas of the body.
  4. Juvenile scleroderma: Scleroderma, which literally means “hard skin,” describes a group of conditions that causes the skin to tighten and harden.
  5. Kawasaki disease: This disease causes blood-vessel inflammation that can lead to heart complications.
  6. Mixed connective tissue disease: This disease may include features of arthritis, lupus dermatomyositis and scleroderma, and is associated with very high levels of a particular antinuclear antibody called anti-RNP.
  7. Fibromyalgia: This chronic pain syndrome is an arthritis-related condition, which can cause stiffness and aching, along with fatigue, disrupted sleep and other symptoms. More common in girls, fibromyalgia is seldom diagnosed before puberty.

Causes: No known cause has been pin-pointed for most forms of juvenile arthritis, nor is there evidence to suggest that toxins, foods or allergies cause children to develop JA. Some research points toward a genetic predisposition to juvenile arthritis, which means the combination of genes a child receives from his or her parents may cause the onset of JA when triggered by other factors.

Symptoms of juvenile arthritis: It is critical for parents to understand the difference between the symptoms other illnesses or injury and juvenile arthritis.

Pain: Kids complain of pain in joints or muscles at times, particularly after a long day of strenuous activity. But a child with juvenile arthritis may complain of pain right after she wakes up in the morning or after a nap. Her knees, hands, feet, neck or jaw joints may be painful. Her pain may lessen as she starts moving for the day. Over-the-counter pain relief drugs like acetaminophen or ibuprofen may not help. Unlike pain caused by an injury or other illnesses, JA-related pain may develop slowly, and in joints on both sides of the body (either knees or both feet), rather than one single joint.

Stiffness: A child with JA may have stiff joints, particularly in the morning. He may hold his arm or leg in the same position, or limp. A very young child may struggle to perform normal movements or activities he recently learned, like holding a spoon. JA-related stiffness may be worse right after he wakes up and improve as he starts moving.

Swelling: Swelling or redness on the skin around painful joints is a sign of inflammation. A child may complain that a joint feels hot, or it may even feel warm to the touch. A child’s swelling may persist for several days, or come and go, and may affect her knees, hands and feet. Unlike swelling that happens right after a fall or injury during play, this symptom is a strong sign that she has juvenile arthritis.

Fevers: While children commonly have fevers caused by ordinary infectious diseases like the flu, a child with JA may have frequent fevers accompanied by malaise or fatigue. These fevers don’t seem to happen along with the symptoms of respiratory or stomach infections. Fevers may come on suddenly, even at the same time of day and then disappear after a short time.

Rashes: Many forms of juvenile arthritis cause rashes on the skin. Many kids develop rashes and causes can range from poison ivy to eczema or even an allergic reaction to a drug. But faint, pink rashes that develop over knuckles, across the cheeks and bridge of the nose, or on the trunk, arms and legs, may signal a serious rheumatic disease. These rashes may not be itchy or oozing, and they may persist for days or weeks.

Weight loss: Healthy, active children may be finicky about eating, refusing to eat because they say they’re not hungry or because they don’t like the food offered. Other children may overeat and gain weight. But if a child seems fatigued, lacks an appetite and is losing rather than gaining weight, it’s a sign that her problem could be juvenile arthritis.

Eye problems: Eye infections like conjunctivitis (pinkeye) are relatively common in children, as they easily pass bacterial infections to each other during play or at school. But persistent eye redness, pain or blurred vision may be a sign of something more serious. Some forms of juvenile arthritis cause serious eye-related complications such as iritis, or inflammation of the  iris and uveitis, inflammation of the eye’s middle layer.

Arthritis diet: Following foods are good for arthritis: Soy, avocado and safflower oils,  cherries for gout, Diary products, broccoli, citrus fruits, osteoarthritis, whole grains: rheumatoid arthritis, beans: rheumatoid arthritis, garlic: osteoarthritis, nuts: osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis. And, increase consumption of fruits and vegetables that reduces inflammation.

What to avoid: Sugar, saturated fats, trans fats, omega -6-fatty acids, refined carbohydrates, MSG or monosodium glutamate, gluten & casein- all these trigger inflammation.

Exercises: Studies show that weight-bearing activities – such as jumping rope, skipping, step aerobics and tuck jumps, do seem reasonable depending on the child. Talk with your child’s doctor or physical therapist about the possibility of adding these or other weight-bearing activities to your child’s routine and which type of these activities might work best for him.  Kids need to keep moving and take enough rest and get long hour sleeps when they suffer from pain and whenever they needed.

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