Juvenile Arthritis Diseases
Juvenile arthritis (JA) is an umbrella term that describes a spectrum of inflammatory and rheumatic diseases that develop in children under the age of 16. Juvenile arthritis affects more than 300,000 US children and teens each year.
Most types of JA are autoimmune or autoinflammatory diseases, meaning the body produces inflammatory chemicals that attack healthy cells and tissue. Common symptoms and consequences of JA include joint inflammation, swelling, pain and tenderness.
Surprising Facts About Juvenile Arthritis
1. Juvenile arthritis is often under-diagnosed.
Many children with juvenile arthritis suffer from joint pain and stiffness, loss of motion in joints, rash, fever and weight loss, but presenting symptoms in kids can be atypical. Parents and healthcare professionals who are not familiar with JA may mistake symptoms for normal growing pains or other disorders.
2. Juvenile arthritis usually has a genetic component.
Studies have confirmed that siblings and first cousins of children with juvenile arthritis have an increased risk of also developing the disease.
3. Juvenile arthritis can affect internal organs and systems.
10% -25% of children with the most common forms of JA often develop inflammation of the eyes (uveitis) that can lead to visual impairment if not detected and treated early. In systemic-onset juvenile arthritis (less common form of the disease), inflammation can damage the lining of the heart, lungs, liver and blood cells.
4. Exercise is always an important part of the treatment plan.
Physical activity and therapy helps strengthen muscles, improves joint range, and slow or limit joint damage. With advances in therapy over the last 30 years, many JA patients live symptom-free (although this may require medical treatment).
5. The prognosis for JA patients is improving.
Improved care, treatment options and diagnostic tools mean JA patients have more options and overall better quality of life.