Juvenile idiopathic arthritis is one of the most common forms of arthritis in children and adolescents. The disease is spread across the world. Juvenile idiopathic arthritis causes chronic pain, stiffness and swelling of joint. The disease was formerly called juvenile rheumatoid arthritis or juvenile chronic arthritis. However it was renamed as juvenile idiopathic arthritis. Since there is no identifiable etiology of the condition it is called idiopathic. The symptoms in children may last for few months or may remain permanently.
The disease is classified into six sub-types. Each sub-type has its own criteria of diagnosis.However, the hallmark of disease remains same; inflammation of joints, accumulation of fluid in the tissue and thickening of synovial membrane. Arthritis can develop in any joint but most often large joints are affected. Certain types of juvenile arthritis can lead to serious health issue that includes inflammation of eye and even growth retardation of the child. The aim of treatment is to alleviate and control acute symptoms and prevent complications.
What Causes Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis?
There is no known cause yet determined for juvenile idiopathic arthritis. Researchers are not able to pinpoint towards any evidence that may suggest toxins and allergies in children as the cause for development of the disease.It is believed to develop due to autoimmune cause. Meaning the body’s own immune system goes haywire and starts attacking its cells and tissues.
The exact cause for this occurrence is not known, but it is believed to have an association with environment and hereditary. Genetic predisposition is believed to make the person susceptible to arthritis when certain external factors act as a trigger, for example virus infection. There is no specific risk factor, but some forms of juvenile idiopathic arthritis is seen more often in girls.
Signs And Symptoms Of Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis
Juvenile idiopathic arthritis is a disease that has its onset in children before the age of 16 years. Arthritis mainly affects the joints of the body. In this case large joints are more disposed. But to certain extent, smaller joints are also affected. The most common symptoms are:
- Pain: Pain in joints is common. However, some small children do not complain of pain, but when they walk, their gait is limping. This mainly occurs when the child walks first time after sleep in the morning.
- The joint are warm to touch.
- Swelling of affected joint: Inflammation of joint is common but it is mainly seen in larger joints such as the knee, elbow and ankle joint. Swelling occurs due to collection of fluid in the joint.
- Stiffness: The synovium or protective covering of the joint becomes inflamed and stiff in arthritis. As a result the space for joint movement reduces. This leads to stiffness of affected joint.
- The child or the adolescent performs less physical activity due to pain and stiffness.
- Only one joint or several joints of the body may be affected at the same time.
- There are frequent stages of remission of symptoms and flare ups as in case of adult arthritis.
- Fever, skin rash and swollen lymph nodes is also common in juvenile idiopathic arthritis.
- Chronic inflammation of juvenile arthritis also leads to iron deficiency anemia.
Treatment Options For Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis
Juvenile idiopathic arthritis is an incurable condition. However, its prompt identification and early treatment will help to control the symptoms, prevent further deterioration of the joint and achieve remission. Management is also aimed at preserving the joint function and reduce the risk of disability. Early and aggressive treatment is beneficial.
- Medicines: The first treatment approach is to reduce inflammation and pain. Medicines used are non steroid anti inflammatory medicines. Immune suppressant medicines and corticosteroids are also used to control worsening symptoms.
- Physical therapy is frequently recommended for the child as it will help to reduce stiffening, make the joint more flexible, increase the range of motion. Joints supports and splints are also used to protect the joints. It will help the child to live his daily life more comfortably.
- Surgery is limited mainly in severe form of juvenile idiopathic arthritis. Surgery is meant to correct any discrepancies in length of the legs or to replace the damaged joint.
- Since eye and teeth are affected, regular eye and dental check up is also recommended for the child.