July is National Juvenile Arthritis Awareness Month. An estimated 300,000+ children have been diagnosed with some form of Juvenile Arthritis. This is a condition that causes joint swelling, pain, stiffness, and loss of motion. Juvenile Arthritis, or JA, is an umbrella term that describes many autoimmune and inflammatory conditions that can develop in children or teens.

The most common type of JA that children get is juvenile idiopathic arthritis, however there are several other forms of arthritis affecting children. We’ve explained each one of these types below:

Juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) –  JIA includes six subtypes: oligoarthritis, polyarthritis, systemic, enthesitis-related, juvenile psoriatic arthritis or undifferentiated. Researchers are unsure what causes JIA. There is no evidence that foods, toxins, allergies, or lack of vitamins play a role in developing the disease.

Juvenile dermatomyositis – An inflammatory disease, juvenile dermatomyositis causes muscle weakness and a skin rash on the knuckles or eyelids. This results in weakened muscles. JDM is different from adult dermatomyositis. In JDM, there is no increased risk of cancer. However, there is often blood vessel involvement, which can be severe. Also, calcium deposits (calcinosis) are common, especially in the recovery phase.

 Juvenile lupus – Lupus is an autoimmune disease. Lupus can affect the joints, skin, kidneys, blood and other parts of the body. Juvenile Lupus is rare, causing significant morbidity and mortality in children. It also presents a variety of signs and symptoms, mimicking many common pediatric conditions.

Juvenile scleroderma – Scleroderma, which literally means “hard skin,” describes a group of conditions that can cause the skin to tighten and harden. Genetic factors may make a child more likely to developing localized scleroderma. Environmental factors, such as trauma, infections or drug or chemical exposure, may play a role in triggering the disease, but the relationships are unclear.

Kawasaki disease –  an illness that involves the skin, mouth, and lymph nodes, and most often affects kids under age 5. The cause is unknown, but if the symptoms are recognized early, kids with Kawasaki disease can fully recover within a few days.

Mixed connective tissue disease – This disease may include features of arthritis, lupus dermatomyositis and scleroderma, and is associated with very high levels of a particular antinuclear antibody called anti-RNP.

Fibromyalgia – This chronic pain syndrome is an arthritis-related condition, which can cause stiffness and aching, along with fatigue, disrupted sleep and other symptoms. More common in girls, fibromyalgia is seldom diagnosed before puberty.

Many parents and families are unaware that their children are showing symptoms of JA, writing off joint pain as “growing pains, swollen joints and a fever as the flu, or difficulty walking and playing as being lazy. The most common symptoms include:

  • Joint swelling
  • Pain
  • Stiffness

Exercise is key to reducing the symptoms of arthritis and maintaining range of motion of the joints.

One early sign of JA may be limping in the morning. Symptoms can come and go. Some children have just one or two flare-ups. Others have symptoms that never go away. JA can cause growth problems and eye inflammation in some children. Since the human body’s immune system does not fully form until the age of 18, an “autoimmune” disease like JA is extremely aggressive on a child.

Further complicating the matter, JA can be hard to diagnose. Your health care provider may do a physical exam, lab tests, and x-rays. A team of providers usually treats JA. Medicines and physical therapy can help maintain movement and reduce swelling and pain. They may also help prevent and treat complications.

There are multiple groups that are trying to help these kids fight and look for cures for Juvenile Arthritis. If you’re looking to help the cause or to help someone you think may have Juvenile or Adult Arthritis, The Arthritis Foundation and Arthritis Research are two of the best organizations. If you have any questions about Juvenile arthritis, please don’t hesitate to navigate to the contact us form and reach out or give us a call at your local office.  Those numbers are listed below:

Charleston – (662) 647-0653

Clarksdale – (662) 624-4141

Cleveland – (662)756-4676

Greenwood – (662) 455-3535

Grenada – (662) 294-0726

Indianola – (662) 887-1518

At Sunflower Home Health, we truly believe that education and awareness are the keys to making the Mississippi Delta a healthy and safe place to live, something that we are committed to making a reality.

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