July is Juvenile Arthritis Awareness Month!
This week’s topic is Juvenile Arthritis, in honor of Juvenile Arthritis Awareness Month. I’m sure you’ve all heard of arthritis. At some point, we all develop a little arthritis in our joints as we age from use. But, there are many different types of arthritis, and most of them have nothing to do with aging. Juvenile arthritis, in particular, affects children under the age of 16, which clearly isn’t related to aging at all. So, today we’re going to discuss juvenile arthritis, and the numerous different types of arthritis under that umbrella.
Juvenile Arthritis and Juvenile Arthritis Awareness Month
Juvenile arthritis is an autoimmune disease that affects children under the age of 16. It occurs in the joints, more specifically it affects the synovium in the joints. Synovium is the tissue within the joints. Autoimmune disease cause inflammation. With juvenile arthritis, the inflammation occurs in the synovium.
Autoimmune diseases are a classification of diseases in which the body’s immune system begins to malfunction and attack itself. Each autoimmune disease acts differently. The one thing they all have in common is that the body has mistakenly attacked itself. This, in turn, leads to inflammation.
Consistent inflammation can cause serious damage to the area. If inflammation is not treated, the area it occurs in will slowly become more damaged. It will, eventually, lose function all together. In a healthy body, the immune system is responsible for fighting off anything that may harm the body, such as bacteria or viruses. With autoimmune diseases, the body gets its signals crossed and begins to fight off its own healthy cells.
Like most other autoimmune diseases, juvenile arthritis is idiopathic. Idiopathic means that there is no precise cause. Even though there is no apparent cause for most autoimmune diseases, it is pretty much accepted that it may have something to do with genetics, environmental triggers, or specific infections/illnesses.
Five Type of Arthritis are Discussed During Juvenile Arthritis Awareness Month
There are five types of juvenile arthritis. Each type affects the body differently. The five different types of juvenile arthritis are called systemic juvenile arthritis (also referred to as Still’s disease), oligoarthritis (also referred to as pauciarticular juvenile rheumatoid arthritis), polyarthritis (also referred to as polyarticular juvenile idiopathic arthritis or pJIA), psoriatic arthritis, and enthesitis-related arthritis.
Systemic Arthritis is also known as Still’s Disease
Systemic arthritis, also known as Still’s disease, affects the whole body. Each different kind of juvenile arthritis affects the body differently. With systemic arthritis, the entire body may be involved, and may also involve internal organs. Systemic juvenile arthritis is usually accompanied by two seemingly ordinary symptoms, which are a high fever and a rash. This rash usually appears on the legs, arms, or trunk of the body (basically anywhere from the neck down). Typically, when there is internal organ involvement, it affects the lymph nodes, spleen, liver or heart. Unlike other forms of juvenile arthritis, this type does not affect the eyes, usually.
Oligoarthritis, also referred to as pauciaticular juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, is unique in the sense that children usually outgrow this disease. With this form of juvenile arthritis, diagnosis requires counting how many joints are affected in the first six months of disease activity. If less than five joints are affected, along with other diagnosis factors, then it’s oligoarthritis. The joints that are most frequently affected are the knee, wrist or ankle. It can also affect the eyes, usually the iris. For some reason, this type of juvenile arthritis occurs in girls more than boys.
Polyarthritis, also referred to as polyarticular juvenile idiopathic arthritis, is most like the kind of rheumatoid arthritis that adults experience. This type of juvenile arthritis is kind of the more advanced version of oligoarthritis. With polyarthritis, more than five joints are affected in the first six months of disease activity, along with other diagnosis factors. Polyarthritis tends to have an element of symmetry to it, meaning that if a joint on one side is affected, then usually the corresponding joint on the other side of the body is also affected. Often, the neck, jaw, hands, and feet are affected. This form is also more common in girls than boys.
Psoriatic arthritis is associated with the skin disorder psoriasis. Either psoriasis or arthritis may occur before one another. Sometimes, it may not appear until years after the first diagnosis of either psoriasis or arthritis. Pitted fingernails are associated with psoriatic arthritis.
Enthesitis-related arthritis is the last of the five types of juvenile arthritis. This type of arthritis affects the entheses. Entheses are the parts of the body where the tendons attach to the bone, for example the hips. The parts of the body that are frequently affected are the spine, hips, and eyes. This type of juvenile arthritis is more common in boys, especially boys with male relatives who suffer from ankylosing spondylitis. Enthesitis-related arthritis is typically diagnosed in boys over eight years old.
It’s important to note that in some cases, a child may not experience any symptoms at all, but can still have juvenile arthritis. So, obviously, the big symptom is joint involvement. Joints may be stiff, particularly right after waking up. Joints may be painful, tender or swollen.
Some forms of juvenile arthritis are accompanied by a high fever and rash, as discussed above in the corresponding type of juvenile arthritis. Fatigue is also a common symptom among children with juvenile arthritis. Fatigue is often accompanied by irritability, not surprisingly. Sometimes, weight loss can occur. There can also be eye involvement, such as blurry vision, pain in the eyes, or red eyes. Juvenile arthritis can be tricky to diagnose at times because many symptoms mimic other diseases. And sometimes children do not show any symptoms at all.
Tests for Arthritis
There is no specific test that can confirm whether a child has juvenile arthritis or not, and so diagnosis can sometimes take a very long time. With juvenile arthritis, diagnosis is basically a process of elimination. Eliminating all other possible causes can be time-consuming and may involve many trips to the hospital and many blood tests. Doctors will want to rule out cancer, fibromyalgia, lupus, Lyme disease, infections, viruses, and other causes that have similar symptoms.
Treatment for juvenile arthritis varies depending on the type. Medications and exercise are typically used to treat all forms. The kind of exercise may depend on the severity of symptoms, or the type of juvenile arthritis. Polyarticular juvenile arthritis carries a higher risk of joint damage, and so water based exercises and physical therapy may be used. Medications for juvenile arthritis have four objectives. Those objectives are to reduce inflammation, ease and prevent pain, prevent joint damage, and maintain or increase strength and flexibility. Some cases may require more aggressive treatments.
Juvenile Arthritis Awareness Month and Our Personalized Cause Blog
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Personalized Cause® started this awareness blog because we believe in raising awareness. We decided to practice what we preach by raising awareness for as many causes as we can. We can’t expect our customers to be passionate about raising awareness if we’re not, and raising awareness is crucial for understanding, fundraising, and research. It is our hope to educate everyone on different causes so that progress is made in our communities.
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