Juvenile Arthritis (JA) is an umbrella term used to describe
the many autoimmune and inflammatory conditions that can develop in children
under the age of 16, and it affects nearly 300,000 children in the United
States. Although the various types of JA share similar symptoms, like joint
swelling, pain, redness and warmth, each one is distinct in the way it affects
the body. Some forms can impact the musculoskeletal system, while others may
affect the skin or gastrointestinal tract. The different types of JA include:
- Juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA)
- Juvenile dermatomyositis
- Kawasaki disease
- Juvenile lupus
- Juvenile scleroderma
- Mixed connective tissue disease
Knowing what symptoms and signs to look for can help you
identify JA sooner and lead you toward properly treating the condition.
Juvenile Arthritis Symptoms
Some types of JA may have overlapping symptoms, while others
have more distinct differences. For example, symptoms for fibromyalgia include,
stiffness, aching, fatigue and disrupted sleep, but juvenile dermatomyositis
can cause rashes to appear on the knuckles and eyelids, and lead to muscle
weakness. In the early stages of JA, a child might start to complain about
back, ankle, hip, knee, hand, foot or elbow pain. If you are noticing any
unusual symptoms around joint pain and swelling in a child close to you, it’s
important to seek medical help.
There is no known cause for JA, though some research points
toward a genetic predisposition to JA. This means that the genes a child
receives from his or her parents may increase the onset of JA when triggered by
other factors. There is no evidence to suggest that food or allergies can lead
to a child developing JA.
While there is no cure for JA, an early diagnosis and
appropriate treatment plan can make living a normal life possible. The end goal
of JA treatment is to relieve inflammation, control pain and improve the
child’s quality of life. Among other methods, many treatment plans are centered
around finding the right form of physical activity and eating a healthy diet.
Every diagnosis is different. If you think you’ve spotted
the early stages of JA in a child you know, it’s important to contact a
physician. Together, you can create the best treatment plan to help them live
well and stay happy.