Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, or JRA, is a type of chronic arthritis that shows symptoms of joint pain and inflammation before the age of 16. Often the symptoms come and go, but some types can linger longer.
While there is no cure for JRA and the exact cause is unknown, it is widely believed to be an autoimmune disease where the body's immune system mistakenly attacks healthy body tissue.
Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis is earmarked by symptoms including:
- stiff joints in the morning
- limited range of motion
- back pain
- joints that are warm, swollen, painful, and possibly red.
Other less common symptoms include fever, rash, swollen glands, red eyes, eye pain, and vision changes.
JRA is divided into several categories:
- Polyarticular JRA: This type involves can involve many large and small joints, and it can turn into adult rheumatoid arthritis. Joints affected may include the legs and arms, as well as the jaw and spine.
- Pauciarticular JRA: This type involves only a few joints, usually ones in the lower body like the hips, knees, or ankles.
- Systemic JRA: This type affects joint swelling or pain, along with fevers, and rash. It is the least common type.
There are several juvenile rheumatoid arthritis treatments, including:
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): More commonly found over-the-counter as ibuprofen or naproxen may be enough to control symptoms in most cases.
- Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs): These help slow the progression of joint deterioration by modifying the body's response to the immune system.
- Exercise: it is the most common form of treatment and possibly the most important as activity eases pain, while maintaining muscle strength during critical developmental years.
While JRA can seem troubling, children with only a few joints involved usually go into remission with few normal function and little deformity. However, those with more joints involved may be more affected and need more aggressive treatment to prevent long-term effects.
While there is a lot of JRA information out there, it's important for parents to know that symptoms of JRA may also be confused with psoriatic arthritis, Lyme disease, rheumatic fever, bone infections, sarcoidosis, and inflammatory bowel disease.
Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis is also known as juvenile chronic polyarthritis, juvenile idiopathic arthritis, and Still's disease.