Juvenile Arthritis Awareness: Arthritis.org · Juvenile New Jersey Chapter · Donate · New Jersey Pediatric Rheumatologists
Juvenile arthritis (JA), also known as pediatric rheumatic disease, isn’t a specific disease. It’s an umbrella term to describe the inflammatory and rheumatic diseases that develop in children under the age of 16. These conditions affect nearly 300,000 kids and teens in the United States.
Most kinds of JA are autoimmune or autoinflammatory diseases.: the immune system, which is supposed to fight against foreign invaders like viruses and germs, gets confused and releases inflammatory chemicals that attack healthy cells and tissue. In most JA cases this causes joint inflammation, swelling, pain and tenderness, but some types of JA have few or no joint symptoms or only affect the skin and internal organs.
The exact causes of JA are unknown, but researchers believe that certain genes may cause JA when activated by a virus, bacteria or other external factors. There is no evidence that foods, toxins, allergies or lack of vitamins cause the disease.
A pediatrician may start to determine what’s causing symptoms, but parents may be referred to a rheumatologist (a doctor with specialized training in treating arthritis). The rheumatologist will ask questions about the child’s medical history, when symptoms started, how long they have lasted and about the child’s family history.
Rheumatologists perform a physical exam to look for signs of JA, like limited range of motion, rash, eye symptoms and joint swelling, tenderness and pain. They will also test for inflammatory markers and administer imaging tests (X-rays, CT scans, MRIs) to look for signs of joint damage can also help rule out other causes such as trauma or infection.
There is no cure for JA, but with early diagnosis and aggressive treatment, remission (little or no disease activity or symptoms) is possible.