There is a common misconception that arthritis only begins to affect people over the age of 40 – not true! Arthritis can affect children as well.
Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis (JRA), as it is known, affects children under the age of 16, causing persistent joint pain, swelling and stiffness. Some children may experience symptoms for only a few months, while others have symptoms for the rest of their lives. It is also possible for JRA to cause growth issues and eye inflammation – girls have a higher risk of suffering from this disease.
Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis can present with the following symptoms:
- Pain: While your child might not complain of joint pain, you may notice that he or she limps — especially first thing in the morning or after a nap.
- Swelling: Joint swelling is common but is often first noticed in larger joints like the knee.
- Stiffness: You might notice that your child appears clumsier than usual, particularly in the morning or after naps.
If your child has a fever on top of these symptoms, make sure you go and see your doctor!
What causes JRA?
Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis occurs when the body’s immune system attacks its own cells and tissues. At present, it’s unknown why this happens, but both heredity and the environment seem to play a role.
Certain gene mutations may make a person more susceptible to environmental factors — such as viruses, which may trigger the disease.
Can JRA be treated?
Yes it can. There are a number of medications that can be used, depending on the severity of the condition. For mild juvenile arthritis, Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) are used because of the relatively few side-effects.
For moderate to severe conditions, steroids would be used, but there are unpleasant side-effects such as: immune system depression, increased appetite resulting in weight gain, acne, mood changes, osteoporosis, cataracts, glaucoma, and diabetes.
If you have a child with juvenile arthritis, or perhaps you are suffering from arthritis, come speak to our doctors. Simply sign up on our website, and download the free Hello Doctor app from the Google Play or iTunes store. With the app, you can talk to, or text our doctors, anytime, anywhere!