Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (JRA) is a type of arthritis that happens in children age 16 or younger. It causes joint swelling, stiffness and sometimes reduced motion. It can affect any joint, and in some cases it affects internal organs as well.
Symptoms of Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis
One early sign of JRA 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. Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis causes growth problems in some children.
Some of the symptoms of JRA include:
- Joint inflammation
- Joint stiffness when waking up
- Hot, swollen, painful joints
- Limited range of motion
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Signs of internal organ inflammation
- Eye problems that may suggest the presence of juvenile arthritis
There is no single test that can be done to determine if your child has JRA. The first step would be a complete medical evaluation to rule out viral infections and to gather a family history. Your doctor will need to know if other family members have had a form of arthritis that your child might have inherited. Its important to do lab tests to rule out other diseases. Laboratory tests are also done to help rule out other diseases. Your doctor could also order x-rays and test the joint, blood and tissue fluids.
Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis Treatment
The medical professionals who are involved with your child’s care will be determined by the complexity of the disease. In addition to medication to control the inflammation, a physical therapist will recommend an exercise program to prevent permanent loss of movement in the joints. The exercises are also helpful to strengthen the muscles. If possible, consider having your child exercise in the bath tub. The warm water relaxes the muscles which increases the range of movement.
Here are some exercise tips for children with JRA:
- Encourage your child to swim. Its an excellent form of exercise that’s easy on the joints.
- If walking is painful, your child can use a tricycle or a bike with stabilizers. This provides good exercise for legs, but should not replace daily walks.
- At nap time, encourage lying face down with feet hanging over the end of the bed. This keeps the hips and knees straight, and is a good position for the spine.
- Purchase good, supportive shoes for your child. Slippers should be worn for a limited time. Teenagers should avoid high heels.
- Splints may be made for your child. Let the physiotherapist know if they are uncomfortable, leave red marks, or become too small.
- Allow extra time in your morning routine so your child has extra time to get dressed. This will help encourage your child’s independence.
- Encourage your child to stay active; however, talk to your child’s therapist or physician to see if contact sports or impact activities like jogging or cartwheels are permitted.
Kids Get Arthritis, Too from the Arthritis Foundation