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Arthritis is an inflammation of the joints that causes pain and swelling. Juvenile arthritis is the term used for arthritis in children. The most common form of juvenile arthritis is juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA), also called juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (JRA).
Arthritis is a group of more than 100 diseases. It’s only one category of rheumatic diseases. Rheumatic diseases can cause pain, stiffness, and swelling in the joints, and bones. Rheumatic diseases can also affect other areas of the body, including organs. Some rheumatic diseases affect connective tissues. These types of tissues include muscles, tendons, and ligaments. The diseases are known as connective tissue diseases. Other types of diseases are caused by the body's immune system attacking its own healthy cells and tissues. These are known as autoimmune disorders.
Experts don’t know what causes juvenile arthritis and most types of rheumatic diseases. In many cases, the cause may vary depending on the type of disease. Certain factors that may play a part in one or more types of these diseases include:
Juvenile arthritis and rheumatic diseases can affect children of any age and any ethnic background. But some types are more common in some children, such as:
Each type of rheumatic diseases has its own set of symptoms. And symptoms can occur a bit differently in each child. But the most common symptoms in all the diseases include:
These symptoms may seem like other health conditions. Make sure your child sees his or her healthcare provider for a diagnosis.
The process starts with a medical history and a physical exam. Tests may also be done. These include blood tests such as:
Other tests may be done, such as:
Treatment will depend on your child's symptoms, age, and general health. It will also depend on what type of disease your child has, and how severe the condition is. A treatment plan is tailored to your child with his or her healthcare team. The healthcare team will include your child's primary healthcare provider. It will also include a rheumatologist, orthopedist, physical therapist, and other healthcare providers.
There is no cure for most juvenile arthritis and other rheumatic diseases. The goal of treatment is often to limit pain and inflammation, and help ensure joint function. Certain organs, such as the eyes and heart, are also checked often for problems. Treatment plans often use both short-term and long-term methods.
Short-term treatments include:
Long-term treatments include:
If only a few joints are affected, arthritis may cause little or no joint damage. Some children may have chronic pain and disability. Other complications include slowed growth, anemia, and problems with the eyes or heart.
Help your child manage his or her symptoms by sticking to the treatment plan. Encourage exercise and physical therapy. Find ways to make it fun. Work with your child’s school to make sure your child has help as needed. Work with other caregivers to help your child take part as much possible in school, social, and physical activities. Your child may also qualify for special help under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. You can also help your child find a support group to be around with other children with similar health conditions.
If your child’s symptoms get worse or he or she has new symptoms, let the healthcare provider know.
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your child’s healthcare provider:
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