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Juvenile Arthritis: Causes, Symptoms And Treatment

Juvenile Arthritis

Juvenile Arthritis - (Image Credit: Shutterstock)

30-Second-Summary

Juvenile Arthritis (JA) is a surprisingly common chronic disease, yet it doesn’t get a lot of attention. That’s why in the following article, we will be talking about:

  • What JA actually is by definition
  • What different types of JA are there?
  • What can cause JA?
  • The possible symptoms that coincide with JA
  • How JA is usually treated
  • Whether or not it is possible to self-care for JA and how it will be done
  • Some of the warning signs of JA
  • Frequently asked questions about JA

Overview Of Juvenile Arthritis

No one ever wants to see their kids in pain, but the sad fact is that many parents have to deal with this situation. It is because there is an estimated 294,000 children in the United States alone who suffer from juvenile arthritis.

Arthritis is usually viewed as an affliction of the elderly. Few people realize that the same type of affliction can be suffered in children. However, it’s important to note that juvenile arthritis is not quite the same as the kinds of arthritis that plague adults.

Rheumatoid arthritis in adults is no longer considered the same kind of affliction as juvenile arthritis. Though it was once thought that they were one in the same, new evidence has come to light, and the two are now separated.

If you have noticed that your child has been complaining about pains in the knees, ankles, wrists, fingers, or elbows, you should seek medical attention as soon as possible because JA is probably more common than you realize[1].

Explanation And Definition Of Juvenile Arthritis

Juvenile Arthritis Disease
The disease is known as Juvenile Arthritis is what’s known as auto-immune disease. An auto-immune disease is when the body attacks its own healthy and regenerative cells. In the case of JA, the body attacks the cells that protect the joints against inflammation and long-term damage.

The joints are where the bones meet, and inflammation in the joints can cause pain. Juvenile Arthritis could make it so that this inflammation becomes chronic, or it happens all the time over a long period.

Juvenile Arthritis is diagnosed in anyone under the age of 18 who is exhibiting this kind of chronic inflammation of the joints. First, the joint becomes inflamed, and then the joints stiffen, then there is some sort of joint damage. Finally, the growth of the joint is altered.

Juvenile Arthritis may last for up to 10 years after the initial diagnosis. There is a wide spectrum in terms of pain caused by JA. It may cause only mild pain or irritation, while severe cases can cause extreme pain. In other severe cases, JA can cause long-term damage to the joints.

The Different Types Of Juvenile Arthritis

Within the umbrella term of juvenile arthritis, there are more specific subsets of the disease. There are three main types of JA:

1. Systemic Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis

It is the most common type of JA. Systemic juvenile idiopathic arthritis affects boys and girls equally, and it is predicted that it affects 10-20% of all children who have JA.

Systemic juvenile idiopathic arthritis is a particularly troublesome form of JA because it can affect other parts of the body apart from the joints.

For example, systemic juvenile idiopathic arthritis can cause adverse effects on the liver, lungs, and the heart.

These types of juvenile arthritis differentiate itself from other forms of JA by being an auto-inflammatory rather than an auto-immune disease. Systemic juvenile idiopathic arthritis usually strikes at the age of two and can be difficult to treat.

Sadly, there is limited information on what causes systemic juvenile idiopathic arthritis, but genetic factors have been identified.

2. Juvenile Psoriatic Arthritis

This type of JA is similar to the last type in the sense that it can affect other parts of the body. Juvenile psoriatic arthritis is a type of idiopathic arthritis for this reason, as well.

Juvenile psoriatic arthritis usually affects children with the skin condition known as psoriasis, where the skin is easily irritated and flakes up as a result.

Juvenile psoriatic arthritis may or may not be marked by the common symptoms of psoriasis. However, this includes skin redness, rashes, and pitted fingernails.

The causes of Juvenile psoriatic arthritis are still unknown, but like the last type we discussed, there seems to be a genetic link. In other words, it seems that it is likely an inherited condition.

Lastly, it is also important to note that juvenile psoriatic arthritis may cause inflammation in the eye, so it doesn’t only affect the joints.

3. Polyarticular JA

Polyarticular JA is classified as a type of arthritis that affects 5 or more joints[2]. In some rare cases, this condition can be treated, and the effects might be residual. Also, in some successful cases, the condition goes away for a time in a period called remission.

What Causes Juvenile Arthritis?

There has been much speculation about juvenile arthritis causes, but there has not been anything that has been pinpointed.

One of the problems in various types of juvenile arthritis makes it is more difficult to pin down actual causes.

However, there do seem to be some trends. For instance, many specialists, doctors, and researchers believe that juvenile arthritis causes include exposure to viruses and environmental factors.

One of the juvenile arthritis causes that have been dismissed is heredity. More than one child in any one family rarely suffers from JA.

What Are Some Juvenile Arthritis Symptoms?

Juvenile Arthritis Symptoms
There are several different types of juvenile arthritis symptoms that coincide with the different types of JA. Some symptoms include:

  • Swelling – One of the most common juvenile arthritis symptoms includes swelling in the joints.
  • Stiffness – If your child complains of stiff joints in the morning, this is another of the common juvenile arthritis symptoms.
  • Fever – Among the most severe juvenile arthritis symptoms is a high fever corresponding with a light rash.
  • Pain – Of course, juvenile arthritis symptoms tend to include pain in one or more of the affected joints.

Types Of Juvenile Arthritis Treatment

Luckily, there are also several types of juvenile arthritis treatment procedures that doctors typically employ, including:

  • Pain Management – Warm baths and electric blankets are commonly used in juvenile arthritis treatment to manage pain.
  • Medication – In some cases, certain medications may be used for juvenile arthritis treatment, including anti-inflammatories and biological agents.
  • Physical Therapy – Physical therapy is an essential part of juvenile arthritis treatment as it helps retain muscle mass around the joints.
  • Surgery – Though it is rare, surgery is sometimes needed as juvenile arthritis treatment when severe joint deformation has occurred.

Is Juvenile Arthritis Self-Care Viable?

Eating Right
For patients with JA, it is important to manage the pain effectively and help prevent further damage. Even despite all the different types of juvenile arthritis, JA self-care is pretty much the same across the board and includes:

  • Eating Right – There are several types of juvenile arthritis. Eating foods high in omega-3 fatty acids could help fight inflammation.
  • Acupressure – Despite the different juvenile arthritis causes, one thing that seems to help for pain relief is acupressure.
  • Heat Treatments – Heat treatments like hot pads and hot baths seem to help with pain management for many types of juvenile arthritis.
  • Creams and Supplements – Some topical creams and dietary supplements may help relieve pain caused by various types of juvenile arthritis.

Juvenile Arthritis FAQ's

JA might go away after a few months, years, or even over the course of a lifetime.

According to some studies, the various types of juvenile arthritis may shorten life expectancy compared to people who never had the condition.

In the case when a child does not grow out of JA, they are diagnosed with adult arthritis, no matter what the juvenile arthritis causes may have been.

Thankfully, there are many things that can signal the onset of JA. If your child has been complaining about joint stiffness, pain in the joints, or if they appear to be limping and running a fever, these could be the first signs of JA.

Conclusion

JA can have a severe impact on your child’s life. That’s why it’s always important to know the juvenile arthritis causes, symptoms and how it may be treated. It’s also important to listen to your child in order to catch the early warning signs of juvenile arthritis.

With the correct and proper treatment, remission could be achieved, and your child could live a pain-free life. It is also significant to manage the pain if your child has JA – even after remission has been achieved. Be sure to speak with your pediatrician often and let them know about any concerns you may have.

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