While rheumatoid arthritis is most commonly diagnosed in adults between 40 and 60, there are instances of rheumatoid arthritis in children too. There is a chance of 1 in a 1,000 that a child will develop RA and the most common type of arthritis to affect children under the age of 16 is juvenile rheumatoid arthritis.
While it may sound like the same disease as adult RA, JRA is seen as very different. Adult rheumatoid arthritis starts out in smaller joints like ankles and wrists while JRA starts in the larger joints and can have an adverse affect on a child’s skin and eyes. The condition can also affect the development of a child’s skeleton so treatment is also seen as very different. Doctors have begun seeing it so differently in fact, that they have started calling it juvenile idiopathic arthritis.
If your child has inflammation and pain in any of their joints for longer than 6 weeks it may be a sign that they are developing JIA. If they are sore or stiff after sleeping or have any unexplained swelling in their joints you should speak to your doctor about it.
The most common age for diagnosis with JIA is between 1 and 4 years old – you need to check for any excessive clumsiness, extended periods of immobility, or limping in your child. You can also check for skin rashes or a recurring fever. While there are several symptoms that indicate JIA, figuring out which type of JIA it is can prove difficult.
These are the different types of juvenile idiopathic arthritis:
Systemic: This type affects the entire body including the eyes and internal organs. It affects both boys and girls and makes up 10% of kids with arthritis.
Oligoarticular: More common in girls, 50% of kids with arthritis have this type. Arthritis will affect 4 or fewer joints and can really affect the iris too.
Polyarticular: This is the most similar type of juvenile arthritis to adult RA. It is pretty rare in children and can affect 5 to all joints in the body. This is the riskiest type for kids to develop as there is a lot of potential for permanent joint damage.
Enthesitis-Related: If your child has juvenile ankylosing spondylitis ( an inflammation of the lower spine) they are more likely to have this type. They could also have IBS or Crohn’s disease too.
JIA or juvenile idiopathic arthritis can affect any child from any ethnic background though it is most common in girls, just as RA is more common in women. It seems to be a genetic disease that is triggered by environmental factors. If your child has the gene for the disease and has an illness, it may be brought on.
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