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What is Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 17, 2024
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Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis is a form of joint inflammation which impacts children under 16. The severity of this condition can vary widely; some children only experience minor pain and swelling, while others endure more severe bouts of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. In all cases, there are an assortment of treatment options for managing juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, and some kids recover completely from bouts with it at a young age, going on to live healthy lives.

In rheumatoid arthritis, the joints of the body and the sheaths which protect them grow inflamed. Instead of being flexible and free-moving, the joints lock up. They can be swollen, painful, hot, or reddened, and the patient's freedom of movement can be severely restricted. In juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, there can be some serious complications, since the patient is still growing. The joints could grow at different rates, causing the child to have an uneven body, for example. Muscle shortening known as contracture can also be a problem if the patient favors an affected limb.

There are three main types of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis: pauciarticular, polyarticular, and systemic. Pauciarticular involves four or fewer joints, and it is often associated with inflammation of the eyes. Polyarticular juvenile rheumatoid arthritis involves five or more four joints, and it appears to strike girls more than boys. In systemic juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, the patient's whole body is affected, and the condition can be very painful.

The exact cause of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis is unknown, leading some doctors to refer to it as an idiopathic arthritis, but the condition appears to be autoimmune in origin. For unknown reasons, the patient's body starts attacking the tissue of the joints, causing inflammation and the onset of arthritis. The condition may be genetically linked to other autoimmune problems, like lupus, as some scientific studies seem to suggest that autoimmune conditions can be inherited.

To diagnose juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, doctors use tools like blood tests and bone scans to eliminate causes like infections and to confirm that the cause of the joint inflammation and pain is indeed arthritis. The condition can be treated with gentle exercise and physical therapy, along with anti-inflammatory medications to address the pain and swelling. Some doctors also recommend dietary changes for their juvenile rheumatoid arthritis patients.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGeek researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By julies — On May 20, 2011

@myharley - From my experience most of the medications used for adults struggling with arthritis pain are similar to the ones they use on kids. Steroids is usually the next option if NSAID's don't help with the pain and inflammation. It may also depend on the severity of the arthritis and if they have any type of reaction to the medication.

By myharley — On May 19, 2011

I know that auto immune disorders can be very elusive and not always easy to figure out. Most of the time you can use something like Tylenol or Advil to help with the pain, but if that does not help, you may have to go on steroids. Neither steroids or a lot of the current medications sound like something I would want to be on for a long period of time.

I am wondering if they use the same rheumatoid arthritis medication in children as they do adults?

By John57 — On May 18, 2011

My best friend in junior high was having a lot of arthritis symptoms and was told she had juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. She was told at the time that she would probably out grow it and not have symptoms as an adult. Now many years later that prediction has held true. She no longer suffers from that joint pain and has not had to have further treatment.

I know she is more fortunate than many. It really does not take much more than a simple blood test to determine if this is something a child might have.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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