Rheumatoid juvenile arthritis is a childhood illness that affects any joint of the body. The body triggers an immune reaction that attacks the synovial tissue that covers the joint, resulting in an excess of synovial fluid.
This leads to pain, inflammation and edema of the joint. Children of ages up to 16 are affected by juvenile arthritis. After the age of 16, its symptoms usually disappear by themselves. Fortunately, only 1 in 1000 children is affected by juvenile arthritis.
There are three types of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, depending on the affected area:
- Oligoarthritis, when up to four joints are affected simultaneously.
- Polyarthritis, when five or more joints are affected simultaneously.
- Systemic arthritis, the least frequent form of juvenile arthritis; is generally accompanied by fever and rashes.
Juvenile arthritis does not lead to physical impairment of any kind. Children that have suffered of juvenile arthritis in their infancy and teenage years will carry on to lead a healthy and normal adult life, unlike adults that develop rheumatoid arthritis. This disease has unknown causes and does not manifest itself as other classic rheumatoid disorders.
Joint pain and edema are the most frequent symptoms of juvenile arthritis. These can appear and then disappear at random, but are persistent and recurrent. Joint stiffness is another very unpleasant symptom that occurs mostly in the morning. The child can also present a limp, high fever and rashes. Regular ophthalmologic examinations are a must, because this disease can also affect eyesight.
The symptoms of juvenile arthritis are very unpredictable. At times it can enter a period of remission, and thus be asymptomatic. This can be followed by a spurt of very intense symptoms. This is why it is recommended for both parents and children to take this information into consideration and be prepared at all times for the unpleasant effects of juvenile arthritis.
Diagnosis and Treatment
There is no standardized test to detect this illness in children. The doctor’s diagnosis is based on a classical physical examination and monitoring of the joints and movements. Parents play a very important role in this, because they are perhaps the first to notice joint stiffness or movement difficulties in their child. An ophthalmologic examination is also very useful in diagnosing juvenile arthritis, because this condition also affects the eyes in some cases.
The treatment of juvenile arthritis consists of reducing pain and inflammation. The improvement of joint mobility and prevention of any other complication are also expected of an appropriate treatment plan. The treatment mainly consists of medication, gymnastics and physiotherapy.
Physical exercise is the most important part of a juvenile arthritis treatment plan, and can be achieved under the form of either physiotherapy, or medicinal gymnastics. These exercises can be sustained either in a controlled environment, or at home, under parent supervision. If parents choose to let their child exercise at home, a specialist should first provide them with indications. Regular exercise will prevent stiffness and possible future joint deformity. Many children will need encouragement in this direction, because they won’t be willing to move their joints due to pain. This is why parent involvement in the treatment of juvenile arthritis is crucial.