JUVENILE RHEUMATOID ARTHRITIS
Children can be affected by almost all forms of arthritis generally associated with adults. Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis is an inflammatory arthritis that usually occurs before the age of 16.
Children often complain of pain in their joints. About l child in every 1,000 will develop some type of Juvenile Arthritis. Although uncommon in the first six months of life, these disorders can affect children at any age.
If your child has joint pain with inflammation consistently over a period of 6 weeks or more, this may be Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis and requires medical attention. JRA is the most common form of arthritis in kids. In fact, Juvenile Rheumatoid arthritis is an “umbrella term” used for a group of conditions. These conditions are classified according to the number of joints affected, the results of blood tests and the signs and symptoms presented.
Juvenile RA can affect one joint or many joints in the body. Juvenile RA is a “systemic disease”, meaning JRA can affect the entire body. Outside of joints, the eyes are the most common area affected. Some forms of JRA can also affect the skin, heart, lungs, liver and spleen.
JRA is divided into 3 types
“Systemic onset JRA” affects the whole body and is found in about 10% of the children with arthritis.
It begins with a fever up to 103 degrees or higher that is often accompanied with a pink rash that comes and goes. Often the fever will increase in the evening then suddenly return to normal.
Systemic onset JRA may cause inflammation to the joints and internal organs. The joint inflammation may be present immediately or in some cases may appear months or even years after the onset of the fevers. Anemia and elevated white blood cell counts are typical. Arthritis may continue despite the fevers and other systemic symptoms going away.
“Pauciarticular JRA” involves fewer than five joints and affects about half the children with arthritis. Girls are at higher risk than boys. Joints most often affected are the knee or wrist joints. Often only one knee will be affected.
Children under the age of 7 have the best chance of having their joint disease subside with time. There is an increased risk of developing inflammatory eye problems (inflamation of the iris, called iritis or uveitis) that may persist independently of the arthritis. Regular eye exams are essential to detect these conditions and prevent vision loss.
Older children with pauciarticular JRA may develop extended arthritis involving multiple joints and lasting into adulthood.
“Polyarticular JRA” affects five or more joints and begins at any age. Can affect the small joints of the hand as well as the weight-bearing joints such as the knees, hips, ankles, feet and neck. May be accompanied by a low grade fever. Pressure points may develope bumps or nodules.
Some children diagnosed with Polyarticular JRA may actually have adult form of RA which began at a younger age than is usual.
What causes Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis?
The cause of JRA is unknown, what is known is that JRA, like adult Rheumatoid Arthritis is an autoimmune disease. The bodies immune system is fooled into attacking the tissues that it should be protecting.
In JRA the body mistakenly identifies some of it's own cells and tissues as foreign. The immune system then begins to attack the healthy cells and tissues resulting in inflammation, marked by heat, pain, redness and swelling.
Scientists suspect that there could be two factors leading to JRA. First, possibly a genetic makeup gives the child a tendency to develope JRA. Second is thought to be an environmental factor such as a virus that triggers the development of JRA.
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This information is not designed as or intended to be used as medical diagnosis or advice. Patients should consult their physicians about diagnosis and treatment.