Inflammation, stiffness and pain in joints in children may be caused by juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (JRA). Doctors differentiate three types of this disease: pauciarticular, polyarticular and systemic juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. The mildest of three types is pauciarticular JRA, which usually affects 1 to 4 joints in the child’s body. It can affect fingers, toes, wrists, elbows, ankles or hips. If the condition affects more than 4 joints, this is polyarticular JRA and the condition may progress. Systemic JRA is the most serious, but luckily the least common rheumatoid arthritis in children.
Symptoms and Causes of JRA
Children suffering from JRA usually complain about pain, stiffness and swelling of the affected joints. Apart from these juvenile rheumatoid arthritis may also provoke some sleeping and walking problems. Inflammatory eye disease is also associated with JRA. Untreated, it can cause permanent vision difficulties or even blindness. Make sure to control your child’s vision regularly, to prevent these complications since you may not be able to notice any symptoms but your ophthalmologist will be.
In some cases symptoms may be hard to notice. Toddlers may start to crawl again even though they have already learned to walk and some older kids may have difficulties walking in the morning.
Causes of JRA are still not identified. Doctors suspect that problems with functioning of the immune system (interactivity or genetic predisposition to the disease) and different infections may be involved in the development of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis.
Methods of Prevention
Since doctors do not know what causes the disease in the first place it might be hard to say how to prevent it. However, some things have been known to alleviate or ease the symptoms and make the condition bearable for little patients. To prevent swelling and pain in the joints doctors recommend moderate amount of physical activity and plenty of rest. Too much exercise may make every child feel sore, especially those who are suffering from JRA. Advise your child to engage in sports and activities that will not stress joints so much and try to limit his/her running or contact sports.
Sometimes, children may need medications and joint support. Warm (but not hot) compresses, applied to the painful joints for about 20 minutes are also known to be helpful. Be careful around small kids and do not leave them without supervision with the heating pads.
Morning stiffness may be avoided or prevented if the child is warm during the night, sleeping in thermal underwear or perhaps in a sleeping bag if he/she likes that better. Warm showers and some stretching in the morning may also relieve morning stiffness.