Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis: Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

When most people think of arthritis, they think of a condition that most often strikes the older population. This, unfortunately, is not true. Some form of diabetes affects over 285,000 children in the United States. Of these, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis is the most prevalent form of diabetes to affect the younger population. Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis is an often-debilitating disease that affects the younger population in ways similar to what older patients must endure. Medical researchers estimate that approximately 75,000 children suffer from juvenile rheumatoid arthritis in the United States. Most children who are diagnosed are between six months and sixteen years of age.

The symptoms of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis are similar to those experienced by rheumatoid arthritis patients. The conventional symptoms of arthritis also apply here. They include stiffness in the joints, muscle pain, swelling of the joints, and an inability to accomplish everyday tasks in an efficient manner. Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis differs from the adult version in that the disease is classified into three distinct types. These are polyarticular, pauciarticular, and systematic juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. Each has its own class of distinct symptoms, although all share the common symptoms associated with most types of arthritis. Also, unlike adult rheumatoid arthritis, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis may also encompass a host of specific side effects, including fevers, rashes, and swollen lymph nodes and spleen. In most cases, the presence of fevers and rashes may worsen or improve intermittently. However, patients who experience swelling of the lymph nodes or spleen may find that their symptoms simply worsen with time.

Diagnosis of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis can sometimes be difficult since symptoms can initially be rather subtle. Early signs of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis include stiffness in the hips or neck, and sore fingers, wrists, or knees. Other more severe symptoms may include limping or inability to walk, fevers that won’t go away, and rashes. If symptoms persist, the health professional may conduct additional tests or refer the patient to a specialist who will conduct additional tests until a decisive diagnosis is made.

Although the causes of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis are not known, scientists do understand the basic underlying structure of the disease. Like adult rheumatoid arthritis, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder. Children afflicted with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis produce antibodies that attack the joint tissue. The body mistakes its own tissues for a virus, bacteria, or some such foreign invader, thus attacking and destroying its own joint tissues.

Treatment for juvenile rheumatoid arthritis may encompass a variety of therapy options. Drug treatment generally consists of NSAID class drugs. Some examples of NSAID drugs include naproxen and ibuprofen. NSAID drugs are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs that help control the symptoms of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. Regular physical exercise is also an important facet of treatment. Children should receive some form of regular physical activity in order to keep the bones strong and the joints mobile and flexible. Swimming and water exercises are highly recommended, while high impact sports and activities such as running and tennis should be avoided.