What is Juvenile Arthritis?
Juvenile Arthritis is the same as Rheumatoid Arthritis but it affects children beneath the age of 16. It is a condition that causes inflammation of the joints although the exact cause is unknown. As an autoimmune condition, Juvenile Arthritis causes the immune system to attack the body’s own tissues. There are several different types of Juvenile Arthritis and Oligoarthritis is the most common – affecting two thirds of young people with arthritis. Symptoms most commonly affect one or both knees but other issues include eye inflammation, growth problems and issues during puberty. Flare-ups of Juvenile Arthritis often occur after periods of stress, changes in medication or infection. These flare-ups can reduce your energy levels, appetite and cause joint pain, swelling and stiffness. Eye inflammation such as uveitis can occur in young people with Juvenile Arthritis. This causes pain and redness in the eyes, but it can happen without any noticeable symptoms. Therefore getting regular eye checks is recommended.
Treatment for Juvenile Arthritis
Taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as Ibuprofen can help to manage the symptoms. Disease modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) can reduce arthritic joint damage. One common treatment is a steroid injection as this is effective for months when injected into the affected joint. There are also biological therapies such as Etanercept that reduce inflammation in people with severe forms of JA. Practical solutions for managing Juvenile Arthritis symptoms include getting involved with gentle activities such as swimming. For difficulties with moods or sleep, it may be a good idea to add more magnesium into your diet to relax the nervous system and ensure a better night’s rest. Visiting a physiotherapist can help to improve the symptoms of your juvenile arthritis. By relieving pain and improving your ability to get on with life, physiotherapy and occupational therapy can be suited to your individual needs. They also provide exercises that can make your joints stronger and daily activities easier.Other measures to consider include adopting a good upright posture. This keeps your muscles strong enough to keep the back straight. A good posture can ensure your body works efficiently while also strengthening the ‘core’ of your body, i.e. the muscles of your stomach and back. Regular exercise can keep your muscles more flexible, while preventing joint damage and improving movement. Working with a physiotherapist can ensure you regain your strength. Using joint supports may be necessary to protect the muscles and soft tissues holding your joints in place. It’s important to ensure the joints are as strong as possible and a therapist can give you advice for protecting while performing everyday tasks. Some young people with Juvenile Arthritis may have reduced mobility. Using crutches to help with walking or other mobility aids can all support and make it easier to get from place to place. Many young people find that their Juvenile Arthritis is more manageable because there are many effective drug therapies available, so surgery can be avoided except for in more extreme cases.