Juvenile arthritis is an autoimmune disease that affects roughly 1 in every 1,000 children. It is characterized by inflammation of the tissue that lines the inside of the joints (also known as the synovium). Unlike forms of adult-onset arthritis, this disease is idiopathic, meaning no exact cause is known. However, researchers believe it may be related to genetics, environmental factors, or certain types of infections.
Types of Juvenile Arthritis
- Systemic Arthritis
This type of juvenile arthritis can affect part or all of the body. Symptoms usually include a high fever and rash along with joint pain, and organs such as the heart and spleen can be affected. This type is the rarest and affects both boys and girls equally.
Closest in symptoms to the adult form of arthritis, polyarthritis affects five or more joints within the first six months of the disease being present. Most commonly, children will experience joint pain in the jaw, neck, hands, and feet. Girls are more commonly affected than boys.
- Psoriatic Arthritis
This disease affects children with both arthritis and psoriasis, a skin disease. One symptom (either the arthritis or psoriasis) may show up months or even years before the other. Boys and girls are affected equally, and children with psoriatic arthritis usually have pitted fingernails.
Unlike polyarthritis, oligoarthritis affects fewer than five joints within the first six months. The knee, ankle, and wrist are the most commonly-affected joints, and this disease is usually outgrown by adulthood.
Treatment usually includes a combination of medication (depending on the type the child has) and physical activity. The goal is to relieve pain and reduce swelling, as well as treat the other symptoms that are unique to the type of arthritis the child has. If you believe your child may have juvenile arthritis, make an appointment with your pediatrician.