July was Juvenile Arthritis (JA) Awareness Month. So now is a good time to shed some light on the condition. "Juvenile Arthritis?" you question. Yes, although arthritis is normally viewed as a condition that affects adults, kids get it too. According to the Arthritis National Research Foundation Juvenile Arthritis affects nearly 300,000 American children.
Juvenile Arthritis occurs as early as six months of age and as late as eighteen years of age. The early symptoms that appear that are indicative of JA are: swollen joints, pain, redness, fever, and rash. These symptoms are often written off as indicators of arthritis, however, for two reasons. The first reason for this oversight is that most doctors are not looking for arthritis in children. The second reason is that the symptoms of Juvenile Arthritis mimic those of the flu and allergic reaction.
Types of Arthritis
There are many types of arthritis and arthritis related conditions that fall into the Juvenile Arthritis category. Four of the main types are Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis(JIA), Juvenile Dermatomyositis, Juvenile Lupus, and Fibromyalgia.
JIA appears between the ages of 2 and 15 and is the most common type of Juvenile Arthritis. It usually manifests as swelling in one or more joints for at least six weeks. It results in muscle and soft tissue tightening, bone erosion and joint misalignment, and growth pattern changes.
Juvenile Dermatomyositis is an inflammatory disease that causes muscle weakness in the trunk, shoulders, and upper legs and a skin rash on the eyelids and knuckles.
Juvenile Lupus is an immune system disease that affects the joints, skin, kidneys, and blood. Symptoms manifest as a butterfly shaped rash, scaly type rash, sensitivity to sunlight, and joint and chest pain.
Fibromyalgia is usually diagnosed after puberty and is more common in girls. Sufferers experience chronic pain, stiffness and aching, fatigue, and disrupted sleep.
Why Do Children Get JA?
The reasons why children get Juvenile Arthritis include a mishap in the body's immune system, environmental factors, and genetics.
Remission is the goal of treatment. This is accomplished through medication and physical therapy. Corticosteroid injections are given directly into the affected joints along with ibuprofen or naproxen. Methotrexate, Enbrel, and Remicade are three common medications that are effective at stopping or preventing joint damage and aiding in remission. Physical therapy is done to assist the child in regaining range of motion, muscle strength, and bulk.
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