Doctors are still not sure how or why children develop juvenile rheumatoid arthritis or juvenile idiopathic arthritis and there is no cure or way to prevent it. In the US, almost 300,000 kids are affected by the autoimmune disease though, thankfully it is not a fatal disease, and there are several options to treat it.
If you notice any symptoms in your child (they are usually diagnosed between ages 1 and 4), be sure to visit your doctor and seek treatment as soon as possible. If it is treated appropriately, it can be resolved without permanent damage to your child’s skeletal development and will not affect them in adulthood.
How your child’s condition progresses is all dependent on:
- How soon they are diagnosed
- How suitable the treatment is
- What type of arthritis they have
- How many of their joints are affected
If the disease is not treated correctly, or aggressively enough, it can lead to devastating results for affected children in adulthood. As a child’s bones and skeleton are developing, any hindrance in this can lead to permanent disfigurement or immobility. The treatment used depends on their symptoms and their severity, but in all cases, it aims to:
- Minimize symptoms including pain
- Prevent long-term damage
- Maintain mobility
Most children with JIA will be referred to a specialist or a pediatric rheumatologist who can make a better determination of which treatment(s) is best. There can be several people recommended to your child’s team. If they have any skeletal damage an orthopedic surgeon may be added to the team to perform any surgeries that might be needed.
If their condition has affected their eyes a pediatric ophthalmologist can be added to the team too. Rashes such as psoriasis – which can be associated with juvenile arthritis – will be passed on to dermatologists and any stomach problems they may be experiencing will be addressed by a gastroenterologist, and sometimes a nutritionist or a dentist. This is to ensure they are getting the correct diet and supplements they need.
Most people with arthritis need to have physical therapy sessions; as well as this, kids with juvenile arthritis may be given splints to help with their skeletal development and their mobility. Kids may have a social worker to help them with their school access and in-home therapies.
On top of all of this, you can use medications to help ease symptoms and improve the child’s condition.
- NSAIDs or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs reduce inflammation and ease the pain.
- DMARDs or disease modifying drugs are used when NSAIDs are not working well.
- Steroid Injections are injected into the affected joints are ease pain symptoms.
- Corticosteroids are a last resort. They can ease pain and inflammation but can cause terrible side effects such as weakened bones, and growth defects.
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