What Is Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis
When you think about arthritis, you probably assume it’s an affliction of the elderly or the middle-aged at most. But what many don’t know is that kids can get the condition as well. When children (under the age of 16) get it, it’s referred to as juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA). This falls under the umbrella of juvenile arthritis, also known as pediatric rheumatic disease, a collection of arthritic diseases that affect children. Just like the arthritis that adults get, juvenile idiopathic arthritis is characterized by stiffness, swelling, and pain in the joints.
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Unfortunately, it is currently not understood what the cause of juvenile idiopathic arthritis is; however, some studies suggest there may be a genetic component. It is believed to be a form of autoimmune disease. In autoimmune diseases, the body gets a little too overprotective, so to speak. The immune system, which usually defends against pathogens such as bacteria and viruses, mistakenly attacks its own healthy cells.
In addition to the pain, swelling, and stiffness in the joints discussed above, juvenile idiopathic arthritis can also cause swollen lymph nodes, rashes, and recurring fevers. Decreased range of motion in the affected joints as well as redness are also signs of arthritis.
There is currently no cure; however, treatment can mitigate symptoms. NSAIDs such as ibuprofen and naproxen are often prescribed to reduce inflammation. Medications known as biological agents may also be prescribed. These medications help further reduce inflammation by suppressing the immune system. Physical therapy has been known to help as well. Eating a well-balanced diet and getting regular, low-impact exercise may further help with symptom relief. As always, consult with your child’s doctor before beginning any diet or exercise program.
Early diagnosis and treatment is important for the prognosis of this condition. Most children recover and may go through periods of remission. However, every child is different and consultation with a pediatric rheumatologist is crucial to determine what the prognosis is for a particular child.
If your child is showing any symptoms of juvenile idiopathic arthritis, bring up your concerns with their pediatrician or have them seen at a pediatric urgent care. If you live in or near the Los Angeles area, you can see us at MVP Pediatric and Urgent Care. We offer convenient online scheduling and we also take walk-ins.