Juvenile arthritis refers to any kind of arthritis that develops in children who are under 18 years of age. It can be quite difficult for children to cope, depending on the seriousness of their condition. Arthritis affects girls twice as often as boys, and can occur any time from birth until the age of 18. To become better informed of juvenile arthritis, read on to learn everything you need to know:
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The Symptoms of Juvenile Arthritis
If you suspect a child has developed juvenile arthritis, they may have some of these symptoms:
Pain, swelling, tenderness, stiff joints, limited range of motion.
Damage to joint cartilage.
Altered growth of bone joints.
The Main Kinds of Juvenile Arthritis
Polyarticular JRA, otherwise known as juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, usually affects more than 5 joints. It affects girls more commonly than boys, and is most found in the wrists, knees, and ankles. However, it can also be found in other joints, and commonly affects both joints on each side of the body.
Pauciarticular JRA affects four or less joints, usually the knees, ankles, or wrists. You may also find eye inflammation in young girls.
Systemic onset JRA can affect both boys and girls equally, cause high fevers sometimes lasting months, cause a rash, and affect the joints in the hands, wrists, knees, and ankles.
Other Kinds of Juvenile Arthritis
There are other kinds of juvenile arthritis too, but these are rare. This includes:
Juvenile psoriatic arthritis.
Juvenile systemic lupus erythematosus.
These cases are all unique in their own way, so it’s important you learn as much as you can about them and teach your child to cope with them in the best way possible.
The Cause of Juvenile Arthritis
There is not usually a cause of juvenile arthritis. Unfortunately the reason it develops is largely unknown. However, it is not contagious.
Diagnosing Juvenile Arthritis
There isn’t one single test to diagnose juvenile arthritis. The diagnosis is usually made by looking at a complete medical history and a careful medical examination. An evaluation may also be required by a pediatric rheumatologist or a rheumatologist.
Helping a Child Cope with Juvenile Arthritis
The primary goals of treating this condition is to control swelling, relieve pain, and minimise joint damage. A treatment plan for a child will usually include medication, physical activity, occupational therapy, education, eye care, and proper dental care. Proper nutrition is also important, so try to avoid feeding them too much junk and fill their diet full of healthy, whole foods.
Helping Kids Through School
It’s important to make school life the best it can possibly be for children with juvenile arthritis. Every child with arthritis has their own unique symptoms, so this must be considered when helping them. Unfortunately, juvenile arthritis can affect a child’s school work, so modifications may need to be made.
This condition can affect the child’s mobility, strength, and endurance. Students might come to school with different levels of pain and stiffness. There may even be some irregular absences, due to flare ups that happen quickly without warning. It’s important however, that children feel equal to their peers – they need to play, while also protecting their joints at the same time.
You may also notice that the child has side effects caused by their medication, like a bad tummy. It’s common for them to need more frequent meals too.
Be aware that the student may feel:
The good news is that both parents and teachers can take the necessary steps to improve the child’s self esteem:
Listen to the child and observe them. Many kids won’t show that they have symptoms as they want to be like their peers, so watch for anything that may indicate as if they’re really in pain.
Encourage the child to focus on their strengths, rather than their weaknesses.
Encourage the child to participate in social interactions and extracurricular activities when they can.
In order to treat juvenile arthritis, regular exercise is important. Some children do need to use joint supports, however. Let them know why they need to exercise; it’ll help them keep their joints mobile, keep their muscles strong, prevent loss of movement, make daily activities like walking and dressing easier, and improve general fitness and endurance.
Sports and recreational activities will help the child to develop confidence in their abilities if they haven’t any already. Help them to pick a sport they enjoy. Swimming is great, because it doesn’t put a lot of pressure on the joints at all and is very good for our health. Even older people with osteoarthritis should consider taking up swimming to stay active and healthy.
You may need to modify certain settings, like the classroom to make sure the child is comfortable.
Communication between the student and teacher is very important too, so you need to make sure that the teacher understands everything the child is going through.
Stiffness in the morning can make things harder, so try to get up earlier if it’s making the child late for school. If the teacher is willing to change the class schedule, this could also help.
Ask the teacher to give your child extra time to get to their next class, or an elevator pass to make getting from place to place easier for them.
Speak to physical education teachers to see if their lesson plans can be modified so your child can join in properly.
Emergency drills may also need to be modified in order for your child to exit a building safely.
It’s important that although you understand how hard it must be for a child with juvenile arthritis, you must make them feel like they’re as normal as any other child too. Many of these children long to feel like their peers, and feel sad when they’re the odd one out. Follow the tips above and any child should be able to cope with this condition effectively!