Arthritis is a condition many people associate with aging. That association is not necessarily unfounded, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that a person’s risk for most types of arthritis increases as they get older. However, hundreds of thousands of children also suffer from arthritis, proving that this painful condition that affects the joints or tissues around the joints can affect anyone.
The Arthritis Foundation® notes that juvenile arthritis, or JA, affects nearly 300,000 children in the United States, while The Arthritis Society reports that three out of every 1,000 kids ages 18 and under in Canada have arthritis.
JA is not a disease itself, but rather an umbrella term used to refer to various conditions that can develop in children under the age of 16. The Arthritis Foundation® notes that each condition that falls under the umbrella of JA is distinct, though they also share many common symptoms. Such symptoms include pain, swelling of the joints, redness, and warmth.
JA describes many autoimmune and inflammatory conditions or pediatric rheumatic diseases, including the following.
• Juvenile idiopathic arthritis: Sometimes referred to as “JIA,” this is considered the most common type of arthritis. Oligoarthritis, polyarthritis and juvenile psoriatic arthritis are some of the subtypes of JIA. JIA occurs when the immune system mistakenly attacks the body’s tissues, resulting in inflammation in joints and possibly even other areas of the body.
• Juvenile dermatomyositis (JDM): JDM causes muscle weakness and a skin rash on the eyelids and knuckles. Most cases of JDM occur in children between the ages of five and 10, and roughly 20 percent of JDM patients experiences joint symptoms, which tend to be mild.
• Juvenile lupus: Lupus is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system inexplicably turns against the body. The Arthritis Foundation® notes that systemic lupus erythematosus, or SLE, is the condition most often referred to when speaking of childhood lupus. SLE can affect every organ system in the body, and children with SLE may experience fatigue, pain or swelling in the joints, skin, rashes, fever, or hair loss, among other symptoms.
• Kawasaki disease: Kawasaki disease, which usually affects children age two and younger, is not well understood. The disease often begins with fever of 102 F or as high as 104 F, and the fever may last five days or as long as two weeks. Symptoms such as coughing, runny nose, diarrhea, and vomiting also may appear, though such symptoms also may indicate something else is present. Peeling skin in the genital area, hands and feet are some additional symptoms of Kawasaki disease.
Juvenile arthritis comes in many forms. Parents who suspect their child has JA should consult their pediatricians immediately.