Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (JRA) is a disease of the joints in children. It can effect a child over a long period of time. JRA often starts before the child is 16 years old.
In JRA, the joint to become red and swollen. It will make the joint painful and difficult to move. JRA can also lead to long term damage to the joint. For some, JRA can interfere with the child's growth and development.
There are five major types of JRA:
JRA can be a serious condition. Your child will need care from a doctor. The sooner JRA is treated, the better the outcome.
JRA is caused by a problem of the immune system. The normal job of the immune system is to find and destroy items that should not be in the body, like viruses. With JRA, the immune system attacks the healthy tissue in the joint. It is not clear why this happens. The immune system problems may be caused by genetics and/or factors in the environment.
There are no clear risk factors for JRA. Factors that may be associated with some types of JRA include:
JRA symptoms may be mild or severe. If your child has any of these, do not assume it is due to JRA. These symptoms may be caused by other, less serious conditions. See your doctor if your child has any of these symptoms:
Some symptoms are specific to each type of JRA. For example:
Often, there are remissions and flare-ups. Remission is a time when the symptoms are better or disappear. Flare-ups are times when symptoms become worse.
More than one test may be needed to diagnose JRA. The tests will also help to eliminate the possibility of other diseases.
Your doctor will ask about your child’s symptoms. You will also be asked about your family medical history. A physical exam will be done. Your child may be referred to a special doctor if JRA is suspected. The specialist is a doctor that focuses on diseases of the joints.
Tests that may be ordered include:
Talk with your doctor about the best plan for your child. The plan will work to control swelling, relieve pain, and control joint damage. The goal is to keep a high level of physical and social function. This will help keep a good quality of life. Treatment options include the following:
There are several types of medication that may be used:
Polyarticular JRA may become inactive in children who begin medications within 2 years of onset.
Exercise is done to strengthen muscles and to help manage pain. Strong nearby muscles will support the joint. It also help to recover the range of motion of the joints. Normal daily activity are encouraged. Non-contact sports and recreational activities may be good options. Physical activities can also help boost a child's confidence in their physical abilities.
Physical therapy may be needed. This will help to make the muscles strong and keep the joints moving well.
American College of Rheumatology
The Arthritis Society
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Last reviewed December 2013 by Kari Kassir, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.