Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis

Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis is generally diagnosed before the age of 16. It is an autoimmune disorder in which the body's own immune system attacks the joints. There are several different types of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, each characterised by the extent of the arthritis and the number and type of joints affected.

What causes juvenile rheumatoid arthritis?

Doctors believe that juvenile rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder. That means that the child's own immune system attacks the joints. Researchers believe that this may be a genetic issue that is aggravated by environmental factors.

Is juvenile rheumatoid arthritis serious?

Not only is juvenile rheumatoid arthritis painful, it can also lead to joint damage, growth problems, and eye inflammation.

Can I prevent juvenile rheumatoid arthritis?

You can't prevent juvenile rheumatoid arthritis but you can help your child manage the symptoms.

How do I know if my child has juvenile rheumatoid arthritis?

Kids with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis may experience pain, swelling and stiffness in affected joints. Rheumatoid arthritis usually affects the smaller joints including hands, wrist, fingers and elbows. Symptoms can often be worse in the morning and improve as the day goes on.

How do I treat juvenile rheumatoid arthritis?

Some cases of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis are intermittent - which means they come and go. Other cases are constant. Treatment concentrates on preventing joint damage and managing pain. Medications may include anti-inflammatory drugs and corticosteroids. Your child's doctor might also advise physical therapy. Surgery may be needed if the joints become misaligned. Sometimes rheumatoid arthritis is treated with other medications that stop your immune system from harming your joints. These are called disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDS), and include methotrexate, salazopyrine, plaquenil, prednisone and leflunamide.

Should I call the doctor?

You should make an appointment with your doctor if you suspect your child has juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. He can discuss treatment options and help you set up a treatment plan. Call the doctor immediately if your child has symptoms of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis along with a fever.

What you need to know about juvenile rheumatoid arthritis

  • Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis is generally diagnosed between birth and age 16.
  • Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder.
  • Treatment for juvenile rheumatoid arthritis centers on preventing joint damage and managing pain.

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Written by Rebecca Stigall for Kidspot, New Zealand's parenting resource for family health. Sources include Better Health Channel, NSW Health and Health Insite.

Last revised: Tuesday, 30 September 2014

This article contains general information only and is not intended to replace advice from a qualified health professional.