Rheumatoid arthritis in children, Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis


Rheumatoid arthritis in children or juvenile rheumatoid arthritis is quite prevalent.  Rheumatoid arthritis is a long-standing chronic disease that slowly damages and ruins the joints present in the body. Inflammation is the one causing these damages which is supposedly a normal reaction from the immune system of the body. It is also otherwise called joint inflammation. This commonly affects patients reaching over the age of 30.  But there is also rheumatoid arthritis in children, which manifests itself differently.

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Symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis in children :

* Sudden swelling and enlargement of joints.

* Sore finger, wrist or knee; limping.

* Stiffness in the hips, neck or other joints.

* Sudden appearance and disappearance of rashes.

* High fever in the night, then abruptly vanishes.

Types of Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis in children is a group of illnesses, not just a single one; although this group has something in common, which is chronic joint inflammation. Other than that, the symptoms and treatments differ from one type of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis to the other. Here are some of the types:

• Systemic – This type affects many body systems. Children with this type of disease may have inflammation of the internal organs such as the liver, spleen, heart and the organs in the digestive system. They may have skin rashes and high fevers too. Usually, although not all the time, the juvenile rheumatoid arthritis starts early in childhood. Doctors refer to this disease as Still’s disease.

• Oligoarticular – This JRA affects joints lesser than five although this attacks the larger joints located in the knees, hips, elbows and shoulders. This type is commonly affecting children ages 8 and below and have between 20 to 30 percent chance of acquiring inflammatory eye illness. Whether affected with the eye illness or not, they will need frequent checks up with an eye specialist. There are other cases that this affects children above the age of 8 and they are likely to acquire the adult type rheumatoid arthritis. About fifty percent of the children are affected with this type of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis.

• Polyarticular – This affects five or more joints. Small joints that are located in the feet and hands are the ones to be likely affected. This type does not choose any particular age. In some cases this type is sometimes the similar to the adult type rheumatoid arthritis.

Complications of Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis in children will likely bring certain complications particular to the type they are affected with.

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* In some cases, children are affected with psychological or emotional problems. Short time depression and difficulty in concentration at school are amongst the common complications.

* Death rate of rheumatoid arthritis in children is higher compared to healthy children. The highest rate is those of children affected with the systemic type. The rheumatic disease in children can evolve in certain cases into other illnesses like the SLE or systemic lupus erythematosus or better known as scleroderma. This is the cause of higher death rates compared to the other two types of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis.

* The common complications children acquire with rheumatic arthritis are the side effects of certain medications taken in order to prevent further damage such as the NSAIDs like ibuprofen. If these drugs are taken regularly, it will irritate the stomach, hence, sometimes causing irritation, bleeding and pain in the upper intestine. They also attack and cause problems on the kidneys and liver, which oftentimes do not show any symptoms at all, not until the problems have grown worse. Other cases require that the children undergo regular blood testing in order to have a good screening for these problems.

Thanks to the advances in medical technology, treatments for the adult type and juvenile rheumatoid arthritis have dramatically improved.

Causes of Rheumatoid Arthritis in Children

Despite of numerous studies and constant monitoring of rheumatoid arthritis in children, the cause still remains unknown; same is true with the adult type rheumatic disease. What is known is it is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system of the body has mistaken the tissues to be harmful foreign bodies and attacks them, when supposedly it has to protect the tissues.

* The normal function of the immune system is to fight against foreign bacteria like the ones that bring infections.

* The immune system of the body creates specialized proteins and cells which are then discharged into the bloodstream in order to fight against foreign invaders. They are known to be called antibodies.

* With autoimmune illnesses, the antibodies and cells that are part of the immune system attack the tissues. In the case of rheumatoid arthritis, the attacks are directed to the synovium which then develops into inflammation.

* The inflammation then becomes more painful and causes the synovium to grow and thicken beyond normal. By the time synovium goes out of the joint, it gradually presses on and then brings damage to the cartilage and bone of the joints including its surrounding tissues like the tendons and ligaments.

If you suspect that your child has juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, bring him/her to the doctor right away for proper diagnosis and treatment.

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