Arthritis in Children: Everything you need to know

August 02, 2020

Nobody can replace health with anything in one’s life. Health, a precious factor for any person, that once lost it can take ages to build back the immunity and health. The process of building immunity starts when young and goes on till the very end of a persons life. But what if the immune system which should normally help fight diseases, causes one?

What is Juvenile arthritis?

Juvenile arthritis also called Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis is a condition which causes inflammation in the joints in children younger than 16 years of age. This condition is an auto-immune disease which means our immune system, attacks our own healthy body cells and tissues. The immune system normally attacks foreign body cells, but in auto immune diseases, it recognizes our own cells as foreign and attacks it causing various symptoms.

This pediatric condition of arthritis is an umbrella term which is used to describe arthritis in children. When a joint is inflamed it cases persistent pain, swelling, stiffness and loss of motion. The commonest type of juvenile arthritis is called “Idiopathic Juvenile Arthritis” which means cause is not known. Sometimes, it takes the form of a rheumatic disease, when apart from joint and supporting structure inflammation, other internal organs are also affected

Sometimes the joints show no joint inflammation or few show only skin and internal inflammation. There may be accompanying growth problems, joint deformity and eye inflammation.

Causes of Juvenile Arthritis

  • Unknown
  • Hereditary factors
  • Environmental factors like viruses can cause gene mutations and trigger the disease

How can juvenile arthritis be diagnosed?

Since, few cases of juvenile arthritis show no symptoms, it can be difficult to diagnosis this condition in children. Usually, when children complain about having continuous pains in their joints, examination by a doctor is prudent

In such conditions, juvenile arthritis can be diagnosed through taking tests like:

  • Blood tests: Blood count, ESR, C reactive protein, anti nuclear antibodies
  • Urine test
  • Blood culture
  • Test for rheumatoid factor
  • Cyclic citrullated peptide
  • Joint fluid and synovial fluid sampling
  • X-ray or MRI to exclude other conditions such as fractures, tumors, infections, congenital defects, etc
  • Bone marrow test

What are the symptoms of Juvenile arthritis?

There are many types of arthritis. Not all, JA can show symptoms but as per types the symptoms may vary too.

Few symptoms of juvenile arthritis may include:

Symptoms may be continuous or flare up periodically

  • Pain may or may not be present but the child may limp, especially after a nap or first thing in the morning.
  • Joint swelling may first be seen in the knee joint and may spread to multiple joints
  • Joint stiffness leading to falls and clumsiness or changed gait, especially in the mornings or after a nap
  • Fever, rash on the trunk and swollen lymph nodes worsening in the evenings
  • Eye redness and pain, blurred vision

Classification of Juvenile arthritis:

  • Systemic
  • Oligoarticular
  • Polyarticular

Treatment

Aim is to help child maintain a normal level of activity as possible.

  • Relief of pain and swelling through medication
  • Physiotherapy to maintain a good level of range of motion

To improve such conditions among children below the age of 16, healthy lifestyle patterns such as the below should be adopted.

Some healthy lifestyle patterns that can be adopted to improve conditions like juvenile arthritis are:

  • Eat healthy: Consume foods that contain omega oils like fish, olive oil. Along with this eat fibre rich foods, green vegetables, fruits, cereals. Avoid all foods that contain excess fat and cholesterol.
  • Exercise regularly: Exercising can improve your overall health.
  • Hot and cold packs: If your kid is suffering with pain, then cold and hot packs can provide a definite amount of relief from the pain.
  • Extra Supplements if needed Due to the change in environmental and social factors, the food that is being consumed is not providing all the necessary supplements. So by taking in extra supplements, the further health related issues can be avoided.
  • Avoid stress: Children below 16 years of age are more prone to depression. If your child is suffering with pain and have trouble expressing it out. Consult a psychologist. As dealing with the pain can be excruciating.
  • Maintain weight: It is very crucial for children to maintain right weight. Cause excess weight can put extra pressure on the joints
  • The only way to control the pain that comes with juvenile arthritis is through regular medication and by maintaining and adopting healthy diet in your day to day life. Meeting with a qualified doctor as early as possible when symptoms develop helps in the treatment.

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