The American College of Rheumatology says about one child in every 1,000 develops some type of chronic arthritis. These disorders can affect children at any age, although rarely in the first six months of life. It is estimated that around 300,000 children in the United States have been diagnosed with the condition.
Juvenile arthritis, JA, is not a disease in itself. Also known as pediatric rheumatic disease, JA is an umbrella term used to describe the many autoimmune and inflammatory conditions or pediatric rheumatic diseases that can develop in children younger than 16, according to the Arthritis Foundation.
Although the various types of juvenile arthritis share many common symptoms, such as pain, joint swelling, redness and warmth, each type of JA is distinct and has its own special concerns and symptoms. Juvenile arthritis can also involve the eyes, skin, muscles and gastrointestinal tract.
No one knows exactly what causes juvenile arthritis. Researchers believe some children have genes that make them more likely to get the disease.
It could be exposure to something in the environment such as a virus that triggers JA in these children. JA is not hereditary, and so it’s very rare for more than one child in a family to get it.
There are many treatment options for JA. The primary goal of all treatment options is to induce remission of the arthritis. Treatment also focuses on preserving children’s quality of life by making it possible for them to participate in play, sports, school and social activities.
With proper attention, most children with JA progress normally through their school years.
Aspirus pediatrician Dr. Jason Chan. Aspirus is a nonprofit, community-directed health system based in Wausau.