Juvenile arthritis (JA) unlike Osteo-arthritis (OA) is an umbrella term used to describe the many autoimmune and inflammatory conditions that can develop in children under the age of 16.
Although there are various types of Juvenile Arthritis they often share many common symptoms,including:
- joint pain,
- joint swelling,
- redness and heat,
Each type of JA is distinct and has its own special concerns and symptoms.
Some types of JA affect the musculoskeletal system, but joint symptoms may be minor or non-existent. JA can also involve the eyes (constant itching or redness), the skin and gastrointestinal tract.
There are many types of JA, to name a few:
Juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) – Considered the most common form of arthritis, JIA includes 6 sub-types: oligo arthritis, polyarthritis, systemic, enthesistis-related, juvenile psoriatic arthritis or undifferentiated.
Juvenile dermatomyositis – An inflammatory disease, juvenile dermatomyositis causes muscle weakness and a skin rash on the eyelids and knuckles.
Juvenile lupus– Lupus is an autoimmune disease. The most common form is systemic lupus erythematosus, or SLE. Lupus can affect the joints, skin, kidney’s, blood and other areas of the body.
Juvenile Scleroderma– Scleroderma, which literally means “hard skin,” describes a group of conditions that causes the skin to tighten and harden.
Juvenile Arthritis Causes
No known cause has been pinpointed for most forms of JA, no is there evidence to suggest that food or allergies cause children to develop JA. Some research points toward a genetic predisposition to JA.
Juvenile Arthritis Symptoms
Joint pain, muscle aches, heat around joints, redness around joint, itchy eyes, skin rashes, bilateral joint pain ( both hands, both ankles etc).
Juvenile Arthritis Diagnosis
It’s easy to put down joint pain in children to “growing pains” but if there is some form of underlying process especially if its JA early and accurate diagnosis is vital to receiving the best treatment. The diagnostic process can be long and detailed. There is no single blood test that confirms any type of JA. The key to diagnosis is a careful physical exam, along with a thorough medical history. Our physiotherapists are trained to pick up the early signs of JA and refer you on the correct medical practitioners and specialists to further investigate and get your child on the right track.
Juvenile Arthritis Treatment
Unfortunately this is no cure for JA, however with early diagnosis and treatment symptoms can be controlled. The goal of treatment is to relieve inflammation, control pain and improve the child’s quality of life. Most treatment plans involve a combination of medication, physical activity which can be modified and monitored by our physiotherapists, eye care and healthy eating which can be guided by a dietitian.
If you suspect your child may have JA feel free to bring them in for an assessment or take them to your GP to be assessed. As mentioned early and accurate diagnosis are the key to treating JA. For more information go here.
Jude Holroyd is the Principal Physiotherapist at our Jordan Springs practice.