Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis
By Robert D. Lim PTA
What is Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis?
Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis or also known as juvenile idiopathic arthritis is a form of arthritis in children. Arthritis causes joint swelling (inflammation) and joint stiffness. Juvenile RA is a form of arthritis that affects one or more joints for at least 6 weeks in a child aged sixteen or younger. The difference with this arthritis and adult rheumatoid arthritis is that children will often outgrow juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. But, the disease can affect bone development in a growing child.
What Causes Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis?
Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis is classified as an autoimmune disease. Autoimmune diseases mean the body’s immune system attacks its own healthy cells and tissues. Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis can be the result of several factors. These includes family genes and the environment. If you have a diagnosis of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, you can potentially possess a part of a gene called HLA antigen DR4.
What Are The Most Common Symptoms of Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis?
- Swollen, stiff, and painful joints in the knees, hands, feet, ankles, shoulders, elbows, or other joints in the body
- Eye inflammation
- Warmth and redness in a joint or joints
- Decreased ability to use one or more joints
- High fever and rash
- Swollen lymph nodes
If you have any of these symptoms there is a possibility of you having juvenile rheumatoid arthritis or you possibly have something else.
Diagnosing juvenile rheumatoid arthritis may be difficult. Your child’s healthcare provider will take an extensive look into your child’s health history as well as perform a physical exam. Your child’s provider will ask you about your child’s symptoms and any recent illnesses. There are multiple types of tests that can be performed to get a diagnosis which include blood and imaging tests.
The following blood test include:
- C-reactive protein (CRP)
- Rheumatoid factor (RF)
- White blood cell count
The following imaging test may be prescribed:
Physical Therapy and Treatment
Most children diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis need a combination of medicines. Those medicines paired with a healthy lifestyle, including a balanced diet and exercise are effective in minimizing symptoms of this condition. The goals of the treatment of this form of arthritis is to control inflammation, reduce pain, and prevent stiffness. Another goal is to preserve and improve overall joint function. The use of physical therapy to help with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis is to develop a treatment plan to help improve joint mobility and flexibility. Another goal is decrease pain as well as strengthen muscle around affected joints.
Everyone is different and treatment plans will be decided after an extensive evaluation. Each physical therapy program often includes exercises to stretch muscles and increase strength. Patients are often encouraged to practice certain exercises at home to increase range of motion and prevent the progression of long-term issues in the joints. Splints and other devices may be recommended to help keep normal bone and joint growth. A physical therapist or occupational therapist may give a consultation to create a special device for your child.
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