Did you know that kids, not just aging elders, can develop arthritis? Actually, it's sadly more common than you think. Around 294,000 children under the age of 18 are affected by juvenile rheumatoid arthritis
, or JRA. In fact, it is one of the most common childhood diseases in the United States.
As we observe Juvenile Arthritis Month, we’d like to share some more things you didn't know about kids and arthritis.Its Causes are Unknown
Most cases of JRA are caused by some sort of autoimmune disorder that tricks the body's immune system into thinking its own healthy cells and tissues are dangerous bacteria. This causes the immune system to attack and attempt to kill those targets. Most scientists believe that JRA is not hereditary, and while no concrete trigger is known, some think that a virus might set off the arthritis in some children. Kids Can Lead a Normal Life
Aside from regular therapy, medication, and the occasional flare-up, kids diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis generally lead a normal, happy life. This is largely dependent on how early the disease was diagnosed, and how quickly treatment began. Nearly all JRA doctors will work to ensure that the child can continue to be physically active with minimal pain.There's More Than One Type of JRA
Not all cases of JRA target the tendons in a child's bones. There are six types of juvenile arthritis. Some can target the skin and cause psoriasis
, others can cause inflammation and weaken muscles, and others still affect the spine, cause kidney disease, or inhibit neurological movement. These types of JRA don't target one specific group of kids, and can affect children from any ethnic, cultural, or medical background. It Can Be Hard to Observe Symptoms
Many of the symptoms associated with juvenile arthritis are common in kids: fever, rashes, reluctance to use an arm or a leg, or a reduced activity level. To confirm the existence of JRA, doctors need to run several exams like lab tests and X-rays. There are a few symptoms that can raise some red flags: swollen lymph nodes, inflamed organs, persistent rashes or fevers, limping, and increased difficulty with fine motor skills, just to name a few. But it's hard to be certain that JRA is the cause of these symptoms without further medical examination. Sometimes other diseases can be mistaken for JRA such as Lyme disease
Treatment for JRA is not set in stone. Instead, teams of specialists are assembled and tailored around each child's unique, specific case. The world of prescription drugs continues to expand, but many health experts believe that the key to treating JRA isn't some miracle drug. By having an early diagnosis and developing strong treatment plans, the child's chance of living a normal life significantly increases. We already have the tools we need to properly combat the disease, we just need to raise more awareness in families and pediatricians to show that arthritis isn't just for older people.Cited Sources
"What Is Juvenile Arthritis?" NIH.gov
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"Arthritis in Children." Rheumatology.org
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Operetta, Midnight. "The Latest Facts About Juvenile Arthritis Research." BlogCritics.org
. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 July 2012. <http://blogcritics.org/scitech/article/the-latest-facts-about-juvenile-arthritis/>.
Shiel, MD, William C. "Arthritis in Childhood." MedicineNet.com
. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 July 2012. <http://www.medicinenet.com/juvenile_arthritis/article.htm>.
"Juvenile Arthritis Fact Sheet." Arthritis.org
. Arthritis Foundation, n.d. Web. 16 July 2012. <http://www.arthritis.org/media/newsroom/media-kits/JuvenileArthritisFactSheet.pdf>.