Think arthritis only affects older people? Think again. Nearly 300,000
children in the United States are affected by arthritis.
Juvenile arthritis (JA) is not one specific disease, but a broad term describing
many related kinds of autoimmune disorders, inflammatory conditions, and
childhood rheumatism affecting people under the age of 16, says
Venessa Gutierrez, MD, a pediatrician at
St. Joseph Heritage Medical Group in Santa Ana.
“JA is not limited to one area of the body, and it is not just a
young person’s version of adult arthritis. The most common kind
affects the joints, but it can also strike the skin, kidneys, blood vessels,
eyes, and GI tract,” Dr. Gutierrez says.
There is no known cause for most kinds of JA and no known cure. It can
sometimes be tricky to diagnose because the symptoms often resemble the
symptoms of common childhood conditions.
Common symptoms include:
- Stiffness of the joints, especially when getting up in the morning;
- Swelling or inflammation that may feel hot, and may come and go in the
same joint area;
- Skin rashes like those caused by poison ivy or allergic reactions, but
which last for weeks;
- Chronic fatigue, loss of appetite, or refusal to eat; and
- Persistent eye infections, redness, or blurry vision.
“If you think your child has JA symptoms, see your doctor right away,”
Dr. Gutierrez says. “With proper treatment, JA is a manageable condition,
and if it is caught early and treated properly, it may go into remission.
The goal of treating JA is to develop a plan of medication, exercise,
and nutrition that is effective in reducing inflammation and relieving
pain over the long term.”
To diagnose JA, a doctor performs a physical, orders lab tests and looks
at the child’s medical history.
“We look for symptoms that last for six weeks or more, and we also
observe what happens with those symptoms during the first six months after
they present themselves. From there we can determine which particular
subset of JA may have developed,” Dr. Gutierrez says.
If your child is diagnosed with JA, it’s important to find a health
care team you trust.
“At St. Joseph Heritage Medical Group, our physicians have the training
and expertise necessary to accurately diagnose JA. Once the diagnosis
has been made, our health care team provides the treatment, information
and support that a JA family needs,” Dr. Gutierrez says. “We
want to ease the pain for every child with JA and help him learn the basic
life skills necessary to manage his condition, so he can thrive in school
and enjoy a full and happy life.”
Have you had a personal experience with JA? Let us know in the comment
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