July 6, 2015

Chances are that you or someone you know suffers from arthritis. Sure, it affects much of the world’s older population, but did you know that Juvenile Arthritis (JA) affects nearly 300,000 children in the U.S. alone?

July, to honor those adolescents and to help inform you on the symptoms, is known as Juvenile Arthritis Month. It’s important to know that JA is not a disease, but is a term used to describe the multitude of autoimmune and inflammatory conditions that can develop in children under the ages of 18.

Much like rheumatic arthritis in adults, JA shows many of the same symptoms like joint swelling, redness and warmth and pain. Just like each child is different, so is JA. While some forms of the ailment can affect the musculoskeletal system, joint systems can often be minor or nonexistent. JA can also show itself in the eyes, skin, muscles and gastrointestinal tract.

Unfortunately, there is no cause that has been pinpointed to most forms of JA, but research tends to point towards a genetic predisposition to juvenile arthritis, which means the combination of genes a child receives from his or her parents may cause the onset of JA when triggered by other factors.

But how do you know if your child has JA? Most commonly, JA first shows symptoms in a child’s body with swollen joints, a rash or fever. Appearing in children as young as six and as old as 18, joint pain, reddened joints and swelling that refuses to go away are the key symptoms to JA. Each of the seven types of JA possess their own unique symptoms.

  • Pain: Most kids will complain of pain or soreness after a busy day, but a child with JA may complain of pain right after a nap or upon waking up. In addition, knees, hands, feet, neck or jaw joints may be painful to the touch.
  • Stiffness: Redness or swelling on the skin around joints is a sign of inflammation. Your child may complain that their joints feel hot, or may be warm to the touch. The swelling may continue for several days or appear off and on.
  • Fever: it’s common for children to have fevers caused by the flue or a cold, but a child with JA may have frequent fevers accompanied by discomfort or fatigue.
  • Rashes: Faint, pink rashes that develop over knuckles, cheeks, bridge of nose, or on arms and legs is often a sign of JA. Though not necessarily accompanied by oozing and itching, the rash may persist for days or weeks.
  • Weight loss: If a child is complaining of fatigue, loss of appetite and is losing weight, this could be a sign of a more serious problem, like JA.
  • Eye problems: Eye infections, like pinkeye, are common in children, but persistent redness, pain or blurred vision may be a sign of something more serious in your child. 

While there is no cure for JA, knowing the signs and symptoms can lead to an early diagnosis, which lead to treatment and possible remission. With JA, the goal of treatment in children is to relieve inflammation, control pain and to improve your child’s quality of life. The most common treatment plans involve a combination of medication, eye care, healthy eating and physical activity. JA includes many different types of disease, but the most common factor among the different strains is it can have a serious impact on your child’s life. Our pediatricians at the Children’s Health Center are here to help you and your child if any of these symptoms sound familiar. We’ll help you determine the cause of the symptoms and help your child do what they do best: be a happy kid. For more information, visit arthritis.org.