Juvenile arthritis includes a variety of inflammatory and autoimmune conditions that develop among children 16 years of age and younger. It can affect the skin, joints, eyes and even the digestive tract.
The common form of arthritis among children is juvenile idiopathic arthritis where there is no known cause but believed to be an autoimmune disease. Take note that juvenile arthritis can cause serious issues such as eye problems and poor growth. Luckily, immediate treatment can minimize the risk for serious complications and help the child lead an active, normal childhood.
Does my child have joint issues?
If a child has juvenile arthritis, there are symptoms such as the following:
- Painful, swollen joints and limping especially in the morning or after taking a nap
- Stiff joints or holding a joint in a flexed, contracted position
- Child appears unusually clumsy or difficulty with writing or performing other fine motor movements
Other symptoms that might manifest include fever, rashes and swollen lymph nodes.
Management of juvenile arthritis
When dealing with juvenile arthritis, the doctor usually recommends the following measures:
- Medications – these are given to reduce the pain and swelling as well as maintain functionality of the joint. The doctor might prescribe non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and corticosteroids to minimize the inflammation. In addition, disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) are also used to slow down the destruction of the joint. As for biologic response modifiers, they work by reducing the inflammation and lasting joint damage.
- Physical therapy – the child must be instructed on how to balance rest and activity, maintain joint function and flexibility and perform daily activities in a safe manner. If a physical therapist is consulted, devices such as orthotics or splints might be recommended. These devices are vital in improving daily functioning and allow the child to engage in activities.
- Regular exercise – this is essential in maintaining joint function and muscle tone. A doctor or therapist must be consulted on how and when to exercise. The suitable exercise is beneficial for alleviating the pain of juvenile arthritis. Low-impact activities such as cycling, swimming and walks are recommended.