What is juvenile arthritis? This condition is also known as JA and typically occurs in children under the age of 16. JA was previously referred to as rheumatoid arthritis juvenile. This inflammatory disease affects both the autoimmune system and the joints in the body. While there are several different types of juvenile arthritis, idiopathic juvenile arthritis is diagnosed most often.

Before being diagnosed with JA, children must have experienced juvenile arthritis symptoms for at least six weeks. The symptoms most commonly associated with this condition are swollen joints, muscle tightening, growth pattern changes and erosion of affected joints. However, this condition can also affect the skin, eyes and gastrointestinal tract. Other forms of arthritis can affect young people such as juvenile lupus, juvenile psoriatic arthritis and juvenile scleroderma.

Doctors do not know what causes some children to develop JA. Studies suggest that this condition may be genetic or inherited. In order to receive an accurate diagnosis, doctors must take a detailed medical history, perform a thorough physical examination and order a battery of tests to rule out other conditions that may cause similar symptoms.

After receiving a diagnosis of juvenile arthritis, children are typically sent to a pediatric rheumatologist for treatment. While there is no cure for this condition, there are medications that can help reduce the pain and inflammation associated with this disease. Corticosteroids, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and analgesics may all help accomplish this goal. In some cases, children are referred to physical therapy to increase joint flexibility and restore range-of-motion of the affected joints. Occupational therapists can help children learn different ways to accomplish daily tasks, making life easier and less painful. Most doctors recommend moderate physical exercise for those who have JA. This keeps joints strong and improves self-esteem.

Children who have been diagnosed with juvenile arthritis can lead full and productive lives with the help of their parents and doctors. Those who have an excellent support system are more likely to cope better with chronic illness and will learn to live independently as they grow-up. As medical research continues, doctors hope to develop new treatment plans to combat this disease.